This weekend, Food City will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of their sponsorship of the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The supermarket chain is Bristol Motor Speedway’s longest running title sponsor and the second longest in NASCAR.
Company officials announced today that local sports director/anchor Kenny Hawkins and news anchor Paul “PJ” Johnson will team up to serve as the event Grand Marshal and Honorary Starter. Hawkins will serve as Grand Marshal, giving the starting command, while Johnson will serve as Honorary Starter, waving the green flag to signal the start of next Friday’s 25th Anniversary Food City 300.
“With six retail supermarkets in the immediate area, Food City is extremely proud to be a part of the strong Bristol retail community,” says Steven C. Smith, Food City president and chief executive officer. “As Bristol Motor Speedway’s longest running title sponsor, we are honored to have two of our local veteran newscasters join us for this historic celebration.”
Hawkins serves as sports director and anchor for News Channel 11, WJHL-TV, where he has been employed for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of East Tennessee State University, with a degree in Mass Communications. During Hawkins’ tenure, WJHL has received numerous awards. In 2004, he won the Virginia Associated Press Award for Best Sports Department, the only station located outside the state to ever win the prestigious honor. Hawkins was inducted into the ETSU Communications Department Hall of Fame in 2005. He also co-hosts the “Morning Monster” radio show on WXSM Cumulus radio 640AM three mornings a week. Hawkins is extremely active within the community and assists a number of charitable organizations, including United Way, American Cancer Society, Speedway Children’s Charities, Doe River Gorge, St. Jude’s and the Diabetes Association, just to name a few. He was the co-chairman and helped raise millions of dollars for the Tri-Cities Chapter of the Step Out Walk for Diabetes. Hawkins is the proud father of twin daughters.
“It is an honor to represent such a giant leader in the grocery business, NASCAR and the community,” says Hawkins.
Johnson serves as news anchor for News 5, WCYB-TV, where he has been employed for 28 years. He also served as the station’s sports director for a number of years. In 2007, Johnson began anchoring the news on Fox Tri-Cities. He now anchors the news on both stations. An award-winning reporter, he is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. In 2005, Johnson received the most prestigious media honor in NASCAR, the Russ Catlin Motorsports Journalism Award, followed by the Charlie Harville Award as National Motorsports Press Association Reporter of the Year in 2012. His short story, The Dirt on Bristol Motor Speedway was published by the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series on NASCAR. In 2016, Johnson was honored by both the Tennessee Associated Press and the Virginias Associated Press as the Best News Anchor of the year. He is a graduate of East Tennessee State University. An avid golfer, Johnson volunteers for a number of organizations including Healing Hands and local animal rescue. His daughter, Morgan suffers from Type One Diabetes and he is a big supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“The first race I covered at Bristol was won by Dale Earnhardt—now all these years later, I can’t believe I’ll be waving the green flag on his son’s final weekend at Bristol,” says Johnson.
Food City is Bristol Motor Speedway’s longest running sponsor and the second longest in NASCAR. The Food City 300 gets under way at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 18, 2017. Qualifying for the event takes place at 3:40 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are still available and may be purchased at www.bristoltix.com or by calling the BMS ticket office at 423-BRISTOL (274-7865).