Young Guns Hunt for Edge at World's Fastest Half Mile
Casting its shadow over the hills of Northeast Tennessee, the Last Great Colosseum dares drivers to cement their legacy by tackling its legendary banks. For those attempting to forge their own story apart from a well-known family name, racing under the lights at the iconic speedway provides the ideal stage.
This week, some of the NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series young guns logged laps on the concrete oval in hopes of augmenting their page in the record books with a visit to Bristol Motor Speedway's victory lane after the August 21 UNOH 200.
"No matter what your last name is or what type of family you come from, when it comes down to it we have to get the job done," said Chase Elliott, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Bill Elliott. "Things are different now, and they can't drive the cars for you. We have to figure it out on our own."
Elliott seemed to have it figured out during this week's test session, logging some of the day's quickest laps in his No. 94 Aaron's Dream Machine.
"I think we're all chasing the 94 a little bit," said Henderson Motorsports driver Caleb Holman. "Trucks are such a tough game because you know everyone competing has everything they need to go fast, but for me if we run well at Bristol it makes our whole year."
The Abingdon, Va. native not only has experience at the World's Fastest Half Mile, but visited victory lane in the Aaron's 150 Pro Cup race in 2008. Still, he is awed each time he negotiates the first turn.
"I've been here a lot of times in a lot of different stuff, but it still takes your breath away the first time you go in the corner," said Holman, who finished 19th last August in his only NCWTS start at Bristol.
Making his Bristol NCWTS debut in the UNOH 200 this August, 19-year-old Ben Kennedy, who ran the K&N DRIVE4COPD 125 at Bristol in March, quickly learned the nuances of Bristol change when the equipment does.
"This is a really cool track and a cool place to make my (truck) debut," said Kennedy, grandson of the late NASCAR Chairman Bill France, Jr. "My whole family is looking forward to it, and I'm really excited.
"It's definitely something new though, something you have to get used to," he continued with a chuckle. "You carry a lot of speed here and stuff happens so quick. I learned that when I spun off [turn] two earlier."
The Florida native's additional education also may prove beneficial to a member of another one of NASCAR's famous families set to make his first Bristol start in the UNOH 200. The son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ward Burton and nephew of current Cup driver, and former Bristol winner, Jeff Burton, Jeb Burton's 2013 resume boasts three poles and one win. Although he only observed during the test session, the Halifax, Va. native is confident is his abilities.
"It looks like a fun track to race on," said the 21-year-old. "I'm leaning on my teammates a bit here and learning from what they think. My dad and uncle always said this was one of their favorite tracks, and short tracks are what I was brought up on so hopefully we'll run good here."
And while short track experience can prove advantageous, a litany of feverish finishes, impassioned rivalries, and drivers' dogged determination to hoist the Bristol trophy bear witness to the track's unique place in racing history.
There's nothing else like this place so [with our test] we're really focusing on how to run well here at Bristol."
To see how these up-and-coming drivers fare at the Last Great Coloseum and watch the other gladiators of NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series and Whelen Modified Series brawl inside the bullring, click here or call toll free at (855) 580-5525. Tickets for the Wednesday night doubleheader start at just $30, and kids 15-and-under get in free with a ticketed adult. Price increases to $35 at midnight, Sunday, August 18.