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About Bristol Motor Speedway
|Bristol Motor Speedway||PO Box 3966 (37625)
151 Speedway Blvd.,
Bristol, TN 37620
|Track:||0.533-mile concrete oval|
|Degree of banking in corners:||Variable (24 to 28 degrees)|
|Degree of banking in straights:||Variable|
|Frontstretch (5 to 9 degrees)|
|Backstretch (4 to 8 degrees)|
|Straightaway length:||650 feet long|
|Racing surface width:||40 feet wide|
|NASCAR Cup Series events:||500 Laps (266.5 miles)|
|NASCAR Xfinity Series events:||300 Laps (159.90 miles), 250 Laps (133.25 miles)|
|NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series events:||200 Laps (106.6 miles)|
|NASCAR K&N Series events:||150 Laps (79.95 miles)|
|O. Bruton Smith, Chairman|
|Jerry Caldwell, Executive Vice President and General Manager||423.989.6947|
|Food City 500 (2 p.m. FOX), Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (7:30 p.m. NBCSN)|
|Performance Racing Network (PRN)|
|Local Radio:||WMEV FM 93.9, WFHG AM 980, WJCW AM 910|
1960s - The Beginning
Sometimes, history has a mind of its own and fate is just along for the ride.
When Bristol Motor Speedway opened in 1961, it could easily have a different name and in a different location.
The first proposed site for the speedway was in Piney Flats, Tenn., seven miles south of the current location.
But, according to Carl Moore, who built the track along with Larry Carrier and R.G. Pope, the idea met local opposition. The entrepreneurs were on record stating if anyone not in favor of the construction and existence of such a facility in the small community came forward to express their opposition, they would find another location. Some local citizens did, so, the track that could have been called Piney Flats International Speedway eventually was built on a dairy farm less than 10 miles to the north on Hwy. 11-E in Bristol.
Carrier and Moore had gotten the motivation after traveling to North Carolina in 1960 to attend the first event at Charlotte Motor Speedway - built by Charlotte businessman turned race promoter O. Bruton Smith (remember that name) and legendary driver
However, they wanted a smaller model of CMS, something with a more intimate setting and opted to erect a half-mile facility instead of mirroring the 1.5-mile track in Charlotte. It would reduce the amount of real estate needed for the project as well.
Work began on what was then called Bristol International Speedway in 1960 and it took approximately one year to finish. Carrier, Moore
Purchase of the land on which BMS now sits, as well as
Seating capacity for the very first NASCAR race at BMS
Just hours before a full moon lit up the Northeast Tennessee hills, the first driver on the track for practice on July 27,
Fred Lorenzen won the pole for the first race at BMS - the Volunteer 500 -- with a speed of 79.225 mph. The field was set with 42 starters, including defending series champion and most popular driver Rex White of Spartanburg, S.C. Also in the field, the first driver to drive No. 3 at Bristol, was 1960 rookie-of-the-year David Pearson.
How good was the Volunteer 500 field on July 30, 1961? When the drivers took the green, 11 of the 42 in the lineup, more than 25 percent, would be on the list when NASCAR named its 50 greatest drivers in 1998. In addition, three members of the local Utsman family, from just five miles down the road in Bluff City were in the field. A member of that family would later play a role in one of the most memorable wins in Bristol history.
Country music star Brenda Lee, who was 17 at the time, sang the national anthem for the first race at BMS. The night before the event, July 29, she and the band The Casuals, entertained a group of dignitaries.
When the Volunteer 500 was over, Jack Smith of Spartanburg, S.C., would be forever written in the history books as the first winner. However, Smith wasn't in the driver's seat of the Pontiac when the race ended. The burly driver made the first 290 laps but then, with the extreme heat blistering his feet, turned over the duties to Johnny Allen, of Atlanta, to take over as
Allen never gave up the lead and, in fact, finished two seconds ahead of second-place finisher Fireball Roberts. Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Buddy Baker completed the top five running order. The total purse for the race was $16,625 with the winner's share a whopping $3,225. Of the 42 cars that started only 19 finished the brutal event.
For the next eight years, from the summer of 1961 through the middle of 1969, Bristol established itself as a place where drivers wanted to win because it mattered. One didn't luck
As a result, success bred success. Of the 13 drivers who won at Bristol in the first eight-and-a-half years, only two had less than 14 career wins and those two had 11 between them. All told, the drivers who made it to Victory Lane at Bristol in those early years won 645 NASCAR Cup races among them. Four of the 11, Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Pearson and Richard Petty, now have grandstand sections named in their honor at BMS.
After Allison's Southeastern 500 win in the spring of 1969, track owners Carrier and Moore decided to make a change.
Between the March
Carrier advertised the new turns to be banked at 36 degrees, the highest of most race tracks, regardless of size, in the country. It also added, somewhat, to the length of the track, moving it from a half-mile or 2,640 feet to a distance of around .533 miles or 2,814 feet at the marks.
The results were immediately obvious, if nowhere else, in the speed at which the hulking machines were getting around the new layout.
In the 17 NASCAR Cup races run at BMS since the 1961 opening, the official track record was the 88.669 mph lap that Bobby Isaac used to earn the pole for the Southeastern 500 in March of 1969. That was a tick more than nine miles per hour faster --- or about a mile per hour a year --- than the 79.225 mph posted by Fred Lorenzen in winning the first pole.
When the tour returned in July for the Volunteer 500, Cale Yarborough shattered the record by nearly 15 miles per hour with a pole-winning speed of 103.432.
David Pearson won first race on the new layout, leading 317 of the 500 laps and beating Bobby Isaac to the line by three laps.
The 1970s were ushered in with a sweep, not by one driver, but by a family. Brothers Donnie (Southeastern 500) and Bobby Allison (Volunteer 500) won the first two races of the new decade at Bristol.
A year later, July 11,
In a Junior Johnson-prepared machine, Glotzbach started second and finished first, capturing the fourth, and last, win of his career.
He got some help in pulling off the feat. Still suffering the effects of an accident in Charlotte earlier in the year, Glotzbach turned to Friday Hassler for relief driving duties. Hassler lost the lead three times to Bobby Allison
The car had led 411
It was the first model win for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the first manufacturer win for Chevrolet since 1967.
In 1973, Benny Parsons won the Volunteer 500, his only win of the season on the way to winning the Cup Championship.
He did not lead all 500 laps, but Parsons was so dominant that he even was able to call in a relief driver.
Knowing the tough conditions of Bristol, Parsons asked local driver John A. Utsman (Bluff City, Tenn.) to take some practice laps in the car earlier in the weekend just in case. That foresight paid dividends. With less than 200 laps remaining Parsons turned over the wheel to Utsman to keep it out of trouble and in the lead. With around 80 laps left and a huge distance on the rest of the field, Utsman returned to the pits, again swapped positions with Parsons who then took the L.G. DeWitt-owned machine to victory lane, seven laps ahead of second-place L.D. Ottinger.
Yarborough and Bobby Allison, the only other drivers to lead laps, finished 19th and 20th after being involved in an accident.
The conditions were so challenging, only five drivers went the distance without relief help.
Despite two of the biggest stars in racing sweeping the 1974 (Cale Yarborough) and 1975 (Richard Petty) seasons at Bristol, making a go of the 15-year-old facility was a challenge
As a result, the Speedway was sold after the 1976 season to businessmen Lanny Hester and Gary Baker. In the spring of
April 2, 1978, in the first race under the new moniker, Darrell Waltrip earned the first of his 12 career wins at Bristol.
While Hester and Baker quickly realized there were challenges in running a facility the size of Bristol with a desire to grow, they pledged to press on.
And press on they did and with the challenges of selling tickets in the heat of the summer continuing to mount, Hester and Baker decided that night time was the right time and August 26, 1978, the Volunteer 500 was run under the lights for the first "Night Race" in Bristol history.
It seemed only fitting that under less-than-blinding lights, Cale Yarborough, who had dominated so much of the 1970s at Bristol, led 327 of 500 laps to win in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000 - more than double the 12,000 estimated to have witnessed the Volunteer 400 (100 laps shaved because of the energy crisis) the year before.
Historic things continue to happen the next spring when an estimated crowd of 26,000 saw a rookie from Kannapolis, N.C., named Dale Earnhardt earn the first win of his Cup career and the first of nine at Bristol.
The decade of the 1980s was ushered in with wins by Earnhardt (March 30, 1980) and Cale Yarborough (August 23). It was Yarborough's ninth and final win at Bristol - in the last race he would run on the high banks.
Waltrip took the track by the throat in 1981 and would hold on for years.
March 13, 1982, Bristol International Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Grand National (NASCAR Nationwide Series) event. Despite being dominated by David Pearson (90 laps led) and Dale Earnhardt (40 laps led), Phil Parsons led 11 including the most important one - the last one - to win the Southeastern 500.
But while things were going pretty well on the track and crowds progressively increased in size, changes continued to come.
Less than a month after the NASCAR teams left town, on April 1,
Hodgdon named one of the original owners of the facility, Larry Carrier, as the track's general manager. Less than three years later, on January 11, 1985, as a result of many of his other businesses hitting hard times, Hodgdon filed for bankruptcy.
Following Hodgdon's application for bankruptcy, Larry Carrier formally took possession of the speedway and covered all outstanding debts.
Meanwhile, Waltrip's domination of Bristol continued as he won seven Cup races in a row from March 29,
Other 1980s Milestones
- April 6, 1986, Russell William "Rusty" Wallace led 174 laps, including the final 101, to win the Valleydale 500, the first Cup victory of his career and the first of nine at Bristol.
- April 10, 1988, Bill Elliott earned the first short-track win of his NASCAR Cup career which helped propel him to the series title that season.
Young star Davey Allison started the 1990s with a bang at Bristol. The 29-year-old son of Bobby and the next generation of the famed Alabama Gang clipped Mark Martin by eight inches at the finish line to win the Valleydale Meats 500, April 8, 1990.
The drama did not stop there. When NASCAR returned to Bristol in August, Ernie Irvan, driver of the local, Abingdon, Va.-based Morgan-McClure Motorsports became the third driver to earn his first career win on the high banks.
Irvan and Dale Earnhardt led 470 of the 500 laps (with Earnhardt leading 350) but Irvan fought hard in the closing laps to earn the elusive win for MMM who had been so close for so long.
The win came in front of an estimated crowd of more than 58,000 fans as Carrier continued with his plans to expand the size of the facility, which had increased by nearly 25,000 in the five years since Carrier had re-assumed ownership.
A year after Irvan's dramatic victory, Alan Kulwicki came back from two laps down to earn the first of two consecutive wins at Bristol in the 1991 Bud 500.
Struggling with the increasing traction of the tires and the speed of the cars, Carrier was faced with patching or applying a new coating to the track every couple of races as those factors combined with the high banks of the track created almost continuous challenges of keeping the racing surface intact.
His solution came in the spring and summer of that year and with the Aug. 29,
Darrell Waltrip led 247 of 500 laps to earn his 12
Other 1990s Milestones:
- Hearts were heavy April 4,
1993as Rusty Wallace led 376 of 500 laps to win the Food City 500. Wallace dedicated the win to fallen friend and defending Cup Series Champion Alan Kulwicki who perished along with three others in a plane crash as they traveled to Bristol three days earlier.
- April 2, 1995 -- Jeff Gordon won the first of four consecutive Food City 500s.
- Aug. 26, 1995 - Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt got together on the final lap of the August night race, sending Labonte spinning - but winning - to Victory Lane.
On Jan. 22, 1996, Larry Carrier sold the speedway to Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., at a purchase price of $26 million. At the time of the sale, the facility seated approximately 71,000.
One of the first moves Smith made was name long-time R.J. Reynolds Sports Marketing Executive Jeff Byrd as General Manager of the Bristol facility.
It was a decision that would benefit not only Speedway Motorsports, Inc., and the facility, but the entire Tri-Cities region as well.
On May 28,
Under Byrd's leadership BMS continued to grow and by April of 1997 was the largest sports arena in Tennessee and one of the largest in the country, seating 118,000. The speedway also boasted 22 new skyboxes.
For the August 1998 Goody's 500 the speedway featured more than 131,000 grandstand seats and 100 skyboxes. Improvements to the speedway since Smith took possession were in excess of $50 million.
With the explosive growth of the Bristol Motor Speedway outside the racing surface, the decade of the 90s ended with an explosion of its own on the track.
In a near duplication of the end of the 1995 August race, Terry Labonte and Dale Earnhardt again were battling each other on the final lap for the win. When Earnhardt tapped Labonte to send him spinning and Earnhardt to Victory Lane for his ninth and final Bristol win, it sent the crowd spinning as well in the finish voted more than once as the most memorable in BMS history.
A New Decade
The seating capacity for the Food City 500 in March of 2000 was 147,000 as the Kulwicki Terrace and Kulwicki Tower were completed.
It was a big weekend for the increasingly expanding track as Rusty Wallace, who 14 years earlier earned his first career in on the high banks of Bristol, picked up his 50th career win in the Food City 500 March 26, 2000.
A year later, in the Food City 500 (March 25, 2001) Elliott Sadler, driving for the famed Wood Brothers, battled John Andretti, driving for Richard Petty, and earned his first career Cup win. It kicked off a string of first-time Bristol winners as he was followed, in order, by Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch.
Busch's win in the 2002 Food City 500 put him in elite company with Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan and Elliott Sadler in earning their first career win at Bristol.
Off the track, as has been the case since the SMI purchase of BMS, improvements continued in and around the Speedway. The 2002 season saw the addition of a long-awaited infield pedestrian tunnel, allowing access into and out of the infield during on-track activity. Also in 2002, a new building was constructed in the infield to house driver meetings.
The 2002 season also witnessed the christening of a new BMS Victory Lane atop the newly constructed building. Busch's win made him the first NASCAR Winston Cup driver to take the checkered flag and celebrate in the new BMS winner's circle.
Additional improvements in 2002 included new scoreboards located on the facing of the suites in Turns 2 and 3.
On Monday, August
In March of 2004, Kurt Busch collected his third straight win on the high banks by capturing the Food City 500. In August of that year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his first trip to Bristol's Victory Lane in the Food City 250 Busch Series race. He did not wait long to make a return visit, winning the Sharpie 500 the following night and completing the Bristol sweep.
By August of 2005, construction was complete on the last 35 luxury suites at Bristol Motor Speedway, finishing the exterior look fans still see today.
The addition of 50 extra laps could not stop Kyle Busch from taking home top honors in the 2006 Sharpie MINI 300 Busch Series event. His brother, Kurt, completed the Busch brothers' dominating weekend by collecting his fourth Bristol Cup Series win in the Food City 500. In August, Mark Martin became the first driver to win Bristol races in each of NASCAR's top touring series when he won the Craftsman Truck Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 200.
March 2007 brought several milestones to the World's Fastest
On Monday, March 26, 2007, work crews began removing the racing surface, a move necessary due to the age and wear beginning to show around the tricky Tennessee track. The new surface was completed in time for Todd Bodine to make the first laps around the facility during Craftsman Truck Series testing on July 23. A series of late model events was contested throughout the summer to ready the new concrete for the August race weekend.
Johnny Benson was the first NASCAR Series driver to do a celebratory burnout on the new surface after he won the O'Reilly 200 Truck Series event. Kasey Kahne (Food City 250) and Carl Edwards (Sharpie 500) won races dominated by three-wide racing and exciting door-to-door duels.
In March of 2008, Jeff Burton led just two laps but won the Food City 500. Teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer finished second and third, respectively, to give car owner Richard Childress the first 1-2-3 finish for a "team" at Bristol and the first of his organization's career.
In the August Sharpie 500, Kyle Busch finished second despite leading 415 of the 500 laps after a late-race nudge from Carl Edwards. It did not end there as the two "got together" on the cool-down lap after the race and then continued their sparring in the post-race interviews over the BMS public address system.
In 2010, Kyle Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to win all three of NASCAR's major national divisions in one weekend, capturing the O'Reilly Auto Parts 200 Camping World Truck Series race, the Food City 250 Nationwide Series race
On Oct. 17, 2010, after battling illness for several months, BMS President and General Manager Jeff Byrd passed away. The man who led BMS through explosive growth, garnering honor on top of honor in the process, left a huge void.
In November of that same year, Speedway Motorsports Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith named Jerry Caldwell the new General Manager of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway. Caldwell joined the BMS Sales and Marketing Department in 1997 and was promoted to Vice President of Corporate Sales in 2009.
In 2011, Bristol Motor Speedway celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
Following the March 2012 Food City 500, Speedway Motorsports Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith responded to the increasing fan expression of opinions regarding
After 10 days of listening to fan
Construction, or destruction, of the
In August 2012, Denny Hamlin took the first victory on the new racing surface, driving his No. 11 machine to the number's 200th win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
A ten-year track record fell in the Spring of 2013 when Kyle Busch set a new qualifying record, taking just 14.813 seconds to make a 129.535 mph lap around the half-mile.
Nineteen-year-old Chase Elliott also made his mark on the record books in 2013 when he earned the top qualifying spot for August's UNOH 200, making him the youngest pole sitter in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history.
In 2017, Kyle Busch repeated his historic feat of an August weekend sweep when he won the UNOH 200, Food City 300 and the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Busch continues to be the only driver in history to have a three-race weekend sweep in NASCAR, now achieving it twice at BMS.
2018 saw the Busch Brothers dominate at The Last Great Colosseum. Kyle grabbed his second consecutive Bristol win at the Food City 500 while Kurt held on for his first BMS Cup win in 12 years at the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
BMS Record Book
|MENCS track qualifying record:||Denny Hamlin, 131.668 mph, 14.573 sec., 8/19/16|
|MENCS race record:||Charlie Glotzbach, 101.074 mph (2:38:12), 7/11/71|
|NXS track qualifying record:||Kyle Larson, 127.988 mph, 14.992 sec., 4/22/17|
|NXS race record:||Elliott Sadler, 94.740 mph (1:41:16), 3/17/12|
|Most Bristol Overall wins (driver):||Kyle Busch, 22|
|Most Bristol Cup wins (driver):||Darrell Waltrip, 12 (seven consecutive)|
|Most Bristol wins (car owner):||Junior Johnson, 21 (eight consecutive)|
|Most Bristol wins (manufacturer):||Chevrolet, 43 (Ford is second with 36)|
|Most Bristol poles (driver):||Cale Yarborough and Mark Martin, nine|
|Bristol overall track record:||Jason Blonde, 144.871 mph, 13.245 sec., 3/19/11 (Xtreme Sprint Series car)|
More about Bristol
Bristol Motor Speedway celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011. The half-mile oval hosted its first NASCAR Sprint Cup event July 30, 1961.
In August of 2010, Kyle Busch made NASCAR history by sweeping the NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series' events at BMS. It was the first time a driver had won all three events at the same track in the same week/weekend. He would repeat the feat in 2017.
Darrell Waltrip leads all drivers in the win category at BMS with 12 victories. Tied for second with nine wins each is Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Cale Yarborough. Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch are the current drivers with the most wins with five apiece.
Junior Johnson is the all-time winningest car owner at Bristol Motor Speedway with 21 wins. Second on the list is Jack Roush with nine.
Darrell Waltrip's seven consecutive race wins at BMS were from the spring of 1981 through August of 1984.
Ryan Newman became the first driver to record a sub-15 second lap at BMS during March 2003. Newman grabbed the Food City 500 pole with a 14.908 sec./128.709 mph lap.
The only father-son combinations to have competed in and won NASCAR Cup Series races at BMS are Ned and Dale Jarrett, Bobby and Davey Allison and Dale and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Elliott Sadler's victory in 2001 Food City 500 was the first for Bristol victory for Stuart, Va.'s, famed Wood Brothers team.
Nine-time BMS winner Dale Earnhardt won his very first NASCAR Cup Series event at the World's Fastest Half-Mile on April 1, 1979 in the Southeastern 500.
Rusty Wallace snapped Jeff Gordon's four-year Food City 500 winning streak in 1999 and got his 50th win in 2000.
Cale Yarborough led all 500 laps of the 1973 Southeastern 500, the only driver to accomplish such a feat in a Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Timothy Peters achieved a similar milestone in the 2012 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, leading all 200 laps of the UNOH 200.
Richard Petty holds the record at BMS for most top 10 finishes with a total of 37.
Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip are tied for the record at BMS for most top five finishes with 26 each.
The most lead changes occurred at BMS in the 1991 Valleydale 500 when Rusty Wallace won the race after 40 lead changes.
Johnny Allen crossed the finish line first in the inaugural BMS race, but he was driving in relief of Jack Smith, who gets credit for Bristol's first victory.
Kyle Busch leads all XFINITY Series drivers in wins at BMS with nine.
Kyle Busch leads all Gander Outdoors Truck Series drivers in wins at BMS with five.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Winners
|8/28/04||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||88.538|
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Winners
|3/31/84||No Race - Weather||N/A||N/A|
|3/27/04||Martin Truex, Jr.||Chevrolet||78.114|
|8/27/04||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Chevrolet||64.872|
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Race Winners