History of the Food City 500: Darrell Waltrip's streak of seven consecutive victories at BMS in the 1980s remains one of NASCAR's toughest records
Of all the great things NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip accomplished during his storied racing career, he has said that winning seven Cup Series races in a row at Bristol Motor Speedway tops the list.
Waltrip and team owner Junior Johnson combined forces in the 1980s and together they made a lot of history. It was simply a winning tradition.
Especially so at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Waltrip carved his name into the record books at The Last Great Colosseum in a grand way by winning four straight BMS Spring Races in a row from 1981-1984. Waltrip added three additional Night Race trophies to the mix in the same time period and extended his single-track winning streak to seven.
Many racing historians have said it could easily be a BMS record that stands the test of time. The only other driver to win seven consecutive Cup Series races at a single track was Richard Petty at Richmond Raceway from 1970-1973.
"For so many years we were just unstoppable there," Waltrip has said. "With those seven wins in a row. It's a track that I felt so comfortable on and it fit my driving style perfectly. I just felt so at home there and felt confident we would win every time we rolled in for another race. It's a very special place for sure."
During that magical stretch of races at BMS during the '80s, Waltrip led a jaw-dropping 1,542 laps out of a possible 3,500.
"Darrell would remind you that he was the guy to beat," said journalist and racing author David McGee. "He was one of those guys that wanted to let you know how good he was. He wanted to get inside your head and when you're out there on the track and you're doing your thing he wanted you to be thinking about the 11 car."
In fact there was only one race during his win streak where he didn't lead at least 140 laps or more. In the 1982 Night Race he only led 38 laps total and somehow managed to pass race long leader Bobby Allison on lap 481 and led the final 20 laps to take the victory. For Waltrip at Bristol, he would constantly show that he didn't need to have the fastest car to get the win.
"Darrell was probably one of the smartest drivers," McGee said. "If he had the fastest car he would go out there and lead, but if he didn't have the fastest car then they would go back and work on it. They'd figure it out and they would get it ready for the race. They'd make adjustments. They would make changes."
Waltrip added additional victories at Bristol later in the '80s and even one in the early '90s and his Cup Series win total stands strong at 12, the current track record holder for most Cup Series victories.
"All the wins there are certainly some of the very best chapters of my career," Waltrip has said. "I just love the place and love the fans there. It's one of my most favorite race tracks. No doubt about that."
As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway on May 31st for the milestone 60th running of the Food City 500, race teams will be hoping to put together a multiple-race victory streak just like Waltrip did in the 1980s. One driver, Kyle Busch, is looking to extend his current Food City 500 winning streak to three and his BMS wins total to nine.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food City 500 will be held for the first time in history without fans in the grandstands. Everyone is encouraged to tune in to coverage of the race on FS1 or PRN at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 31st. Many of the greatest stock car racers in the world will compete, including recent BMS dominator Kyle Busch, second-generation star Chase Elliott, three-time Bristol winner Matt Kenseth, 2019 Night Race winner Hamlin, veteran Clint Bowyer, six-time Bristol winner Kurt Busch, two-time Food City 500 winner Jimmie Johnson and rising star Ryan Blaney, among others.
Also included on NASCAR's revised race event schedule without spectators is the Cheddar's 300 presented by Alsco NASCAR Xfinity Series Race, rescheduled for Saturday, May 30 at 3:30 p.m. That race also will be broadcast on both FS1 and PRN.
Food City 500 weekend ticketholders on file may choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price.* The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, suite and premium tickets, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. The 120-percent event credit can be used during the remaining 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event conducted with fans at any Speedway Motorsports owned track, subject to availability.
Fans are advised to keep their current tickets and asked to complete an exchange request form at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com to start the process. Ticket office representatives will follow up with fans within four weeks regarding the status of their request. Ticketholders should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-415-4158 with further questions.
*Shipping, handling and services fees not included in event credits or refunds. Ticketholders have 30 days to request a refund; those who do not request a refund will automatically receive the 120-percent credit.