Kenny Chesney Kicks Off the Battle at Bristol

Welcomes Peyton Manning Onstage at Bristol Motor Speedway

Imagine two college football stadiums full of fans, put them inside a NASCAR racetrack and that’s the mega-concert that Kenny Chesney headlined on Friday (Sept. 9).

His set at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway ahead of the Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol between Tennessee and Virginia Tech, billed as the world’s largest college football game, was his final show of the year.

Jill Trunnell

Mid-set, Chesney did something that probably exploded the hearts of all the Volunteer fans in the audience. During his football anthem “Boys of Fall,” he welcomed current Super Bowl champion and former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning onstage to autograph an acoustic guitar and give it away to one lucky fan in the crowd.

“When you grow up in East Tennessee, football, family, church and friends are everything,” Chesney said in a press release. “Those are the things that bond you together, that lift you up, that bring you out. For everyone out there tonight, ‘Boys of Fall’ was truly the song of the weekend.”

The night was a homecoming for the East Tennessee native. During the show, he recalled his time playing gigs at the local El Chico Restaurant to make money to cut an independent album across the state line in Bristow, Virginia.

The capacities of both Neyland Stadium (102,455) and Lane Stadium (66,233) barely eclipses the 150,000 people expected at tonight’s (Sept. 10) game. Previously, the largest college football game to date was 2013’s Michigan vs. Notre Dame matchup, which hosted 115,109 fans. It took two weeks for Bristol Motor Speedway to build a football field inside the NASCAR short track.

The weekend’s entertainment included performances by the Band Perry, Old Dominion, Lance Stinson, Alyssa Michaela, Jon Pardi and Sam Hunt. Jennifer Nettles will sing the National Anthem before kickoff at 8 p.m. ET.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.