IRWIN Tools Night Race marks 20th Anniversary of concrete surface at BMS
When Bristol Motor Speedway changed its surface from asphalt to concrete prior to the August Night Race in 1992, nobody was really quite sure what to expect.
The iconic half-mile oval had been asphalt since its beginning in 1961 but as the track was reconfigured from 22 degrees of banking to nearly 36 in 1969, figuring out a way to keep that type of surface from coming apart became quite a challenge. As the years wore on issues with the asphalt continued to mount until finally, in 1992, former owner Larry Carrier, tired of the constant repaving and patching, made an epic decision: he was tearing the track up and replacing the old surface with concrete.
No other track that hosted NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series was, or had ever been, concrete. There were tracks that featured some concrete but when BMS had its facelift, the 1992 Bud 500 became the first Cup race ever contested on a completely concrete surface.
Fittingly enough, Darrell Waltrip, the all-time winningest driver at BMS, notched his 12th, and final, victory in that race.
“We beat ol’ Dale (Earnhardt) for that win,” Waltrip recalls. “That was the first race on concrete, after they had switched from asphalt. A lot of guys didn’t like concrete, said it was too rough. Everybody said that the concrete would change everything for me, that I wouldn’t be as good.
“Well, that concrete didn’t change a thing for me because I went out there and won that race. That one meant a lot to me because people didn’t think I could win on that concrete.”
While Waltrip was the first to notch a win on concrete, Rusty Wallace was the most prolific. In 40 races contested on concrete, Wallace snagged six from 1993 to 2000. Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch all have five wins apiece while Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski each have two.
It is no secret what the most exciting race on concrete was as far as fans are concerned. The top moment in BMS history, as voted by them, is the memorable 1999 victory by Earnhardt, during which he tagged and turned Labonte for the win.
Keselowski has won the last two Cup races at BMS, which makes it, not so surprisingly, one of his favorite spots on the NASCAR tour.
“I love Bristol and Bristol loves me,” said Keselowski. “It is a great track that really demands 100 percent out of a driver and out of a team. I love racing on this concrete. This is an earn-it place. There ain’t no doubt about that.”
Keselowski fully intends to make it three in a row come August 25.
“It’s just a great place for me,” he said. “Getting my Nationwide win there (in March, 2008) was one of the greatest moments ever for me. And then winning the last two Cup races… well, I’m just really proud of that. Believe me, I’m perfectly happy to keep on winning at Bristol and I’m really looking forward to getting back there in August.”
Of course when Keselowski and his fellow competitors hit Bristol this August, they'll face a ravamped concrete surface
Seats still are available for all three nights of racing in August. Race week begins Aug. 22 with a doubleheader, which features the Volunteer 200 Camping World Truck Series race and the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 Whelen Modified event. On tap Aug. 24 is the Food City 250 Nationwide Series race, followed by the IRWIN Tools Night Race Sprint Cup event Aug. 25.
Tickets are available for the IRWIN Tools Night race, starting at $75 while tickets for the Food City 250 start at $45. An August race weekend package, which includes a ticket to the IRWIN Tools Night Race and the Food City 250, starts at $110. A doubleheader ticket for Wednesday night’s Camping World Truck Series race and the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 is available for $30.
Food City 250 tickets for children 15 and under are available at half price, starting at $22. Entry for children 15 and under is free for Wednesday night’s doubleheader.