Joe Menzer - Bristol Tops "Seven More Wonders" List
This is an excerpt from the article, "Seven More Wonders: Menzer goes full circle at Watkins Glen, and these NASCAR tracks stand apart"
By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM
August 10, 2011 5:20 PM, EDT
It has taken going on five years, but this weekend at Watkins Glen the mission at last can be declared accomplished.
Five years since this reporter traded his NFL notebook for NASCAR and started covering the sport full time, not a single track that currently hosts a Sprint Cup race remains to be visited. With a schedule so grueling, the job thankfully has never required attending all 36 points races (not to mention the non-points events at Daytona International Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway). Few can do that and hope to remain married, let alone assist in raising four children.
At NASCAR.COM, two (sometimes three) writers are sent forth to cover each event on a rotating basis. So it took roughly four years, seven months and two weeks to attend races at all 21 venues presently hosting Sprint Cup events.
There have been memorable moments enjoyed at each of the facilities in the process. This weekend, in fact, will not mark my inaugural visit to Watkins Glen. That came at the Tony Stewart--Lewis Hamilton seat swap this past June, and was a very cool event at an obviously unique and very cool place in of itself.
Having said that, and admitting off the top that this list is totally subjective and surely will be left open to vigorous debate by the masses, what follows is a compilation of my seven favorite tracks to date -- along with the reasons why and a few of the most memorable moments I have been fortunate enough to witness live.
Why seven? Well, 10 seemed too many. Five didn't seem enough. So away we go ...
There is something about Bristol Motor Speedway, the way it suddenly appears on the horizon in the hills of Tennessee as you're driving in, that makes you fall in love with it at first sight. And that's even before you go inside the place, where 160,000 seats rise up and surround the seemingly tiny bowl that makes up the .533-mile short track and cramped infield.
The night races are the best, but don't sell a Sunday afternoon event short. In fact, standing in the infield at Bristol for pre-race as a packed house begins to get emotionally ramped up for any event will make your arm hairs stand on end. It's on par with and even surpasses the buildup to most Super Bowls.
While some will argue that the racing there hasn't been as, uh, spirited in recent years, the potential is always there for instant memories to spring forth. Such was the case in August 2008, on a night when Kyle Busch had dominated the Sharpie 500 by leading 415 consecutive laps during one long stretch. With 30 circuits remaining in the 500-lap event, Carl Edwards caught Busch and nudged him out of the way in Turn 1 -- and then went on to claim the victory. During the cool-down lap, Busch showed his displeasure with Edwards' racing tactics by coming up from behind and bumping his car. Edwards responded by immediately driving the nose of his No. 99 Ford into the right side of Busch's No. 18 Toyota, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd.