Food City 500 Memorable Moments are pure Bristol: great side by side racing, crunched metal, flared tempers and dramatic finishes
Around the famed concrete high-banks of Bristol Motor Speedway, sparks can fly and tempers will flare just as often in the daytime, as they do when NASCAR's best drivers take to the track under the sparkling lights in August.
Sometimes overshadowed by the fabled tales of fender-benders, helmet tosses and pit road scuffles made famous during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, the Food City 500 has logged its own impressive list of memorable moments over the years.
Drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will no doubt add to the legend of the Spring Race during the 25th annual Food City 500, April 23, 2017 at The Last Great Colosseum.
Here are 10 moments from the Food City 500 that have given fans reason to cheer at the World's Fastest Half-Mile.
No. 10: In 2002, a rivalry grew into a bitter feud at Bristol when Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer tangled on track for the second time in as many seasons. After a dust up in Phoenix in 2001 where Busch and Spencer tangled for the first time, Busch returned the favor a year later at Bristol in April, spinning Spencer en route to the Food City 500 victory. After their Bristol tussle, the two continued to spar during several races in 2002 and into 2003. Their multi-year war remains one of the most celebrated feuds in NASCAR history.
No. 9: One of the most dramatic finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history took place at the 1990 Spring Race when Davey Allison led a pack of hard-charging cars to the finish line. Mark Martin emerged from the pack as a challenger to Allison as Sterling Marlin spun out of control. Martin darted low in his machine and pulled beside Allison as the checkered flag waved. Allison took the win by a margin of eight inches. At the time, before the introduction of electronic scoring, the result stood as one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history.
No. 8: When Rusty Wallace won the 1993 Food City 500, he provided the fans with a memorable salute to popular driver Alan Kulwicki by performing his patented "Polish Victory Lap." Many winning drivers did the same in upcoming races to show their respect for the 1992 NASCAR Cup champ, who was tragically killed in a plane crash.
No. 7: In 1991 Rusty Wallace and Ernie Irvan put on a championship display of skilled side-by-side short track racing that even today remains as a gold standard. The two drivers battled hard during the final 20 laps of the Spring Race, both working every possible inch of the track to gain an advantage. On the final lap, Irvan gave it one last shot, with a tap to Wallace's bumper, and pulled beside Wallace as the two approached the checkered flag, but Wallace held on to get the trophy.
No. 6: Perhaps it wasn't Dale Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500, but Jimmie Johnson's first BMS victory had its share of drama. Johnson had won 49 races in NASCAR competition, but none at Bristol. His was finally able to change that stat when he notched his first W at the 2010 Food City 500 with a convincing victory at the controls of his Lowe's Chevrolet.
No. 5: Dale Earnhardt proved that he was going to be a top NASCAR contender at his very first Bristol start at the Spring Race in 1979. Driving the No. 2 Chevy Monte Carlo for owner Rod Osterlund, he held off veterans Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and Benny Parsons to take the victory in only his 16th career NASCAR Cup Series start. That win gave him the momentum to be named NASCAR's Rookie of the Year at season's end.
No. 4: In 1984 Darrell Waltrip came to the Spring Race riding a six-race BMS winning streak. He didn't disappoint his legion of fans in Eastern Tennessee that time either, as he powered to what remains a record seventh Bristol win in a row.
No. 3: Legendary Cale Yarborough, regarded as one of the toughest drivers in NASCAR history, led all 500 laps of the 1973 Spring Race, the first time it had been done in NASCAR Cup competition. Since then, the feat has only been accomplished twice at the Cup level, including one other time by Yarborough in Nashville in 1978.
No. 2: Tempers flared at the finish of the 2006 Food City 500 when the usually calm and cool Jeff Gordon released an angry outburst and shoved Matt Kenseth on pit road, knocking the Wisconsin driver back several feet before NASCAR officials jumped in the middle of the fray. The physical altercation followed an on-track incident on the race's final lap where Kenseth retaliated from an earlier bump by Gordon and used the same move to get past Gordon on the closing lap. Kenseth's bump dropped Gordon to a 21st place finish, when he was likely to finish third or higher. Gordon was fined $10,000 by NASCAR for his post-race conduct, the first time in his career he received such a penalty.
No. 1: Proving that the famed Bristol bump-n-run isn't limited to only the Night Race, Jeff Gordon pulled the oft-used Bristol maneuver on Rusty Wallace in 1997 to take the victory. Wallace had led the race for most of the day, but Gordon was charging, picking his way through traffic. Gordon ultimately caught Wallace in the closing laps and used his bumper to get around the Penske driver in turn three on the final lap. Despite wobbling up the track after the contact, Wallace managed to regain control quickly and bring his No. 2 Ford in for a second place finish.
Locally owned and operated supermarket chain Food City first got involved in the NASCAR scene with its sponsorship of the Food City Family Race Night, which became a fan-favorite. The pre-race fan night continues to be a much-anticipated attraction today and has grown into a major production. Food City later started its Spring Race sponsorship in 1992, and in 2017 will celebrate its 25th anniversary of sponsoring the event. Food City's sponsorship is the second longest race entitlement on the NASCAR Cup circuit.