History of the Food City 500: Multi-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson finally wins on the high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway in 2010
As the 2010 decade rolled into Bristol Motor Speedway a new pack of hungry young lions emerged on the NASCAR Cup Series scene ready to find their way to Victory Lane at The Last Great Colosseum.
One of the major storylines that was most significant at the World's Fastest Half-Mile in the 2010s was authored by California native and multi-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.
Coming into the new decade, Johnson had won four Cup Series championships and earned race victories at nearly every Cup venue except Bristol. Quite literally, he was puzzled as to his lack of success at the half-mile venue. In 2010, all that changed. Johnson finally found his way to the elusive winner's circle at Thunder Valley.
"Every win is extremely special, but when a track kicks your butt for so long and you finally can win at that track, there's just something unique about that," Johnson said after his win in 2010. "This track has been really difficult for me over the years."
After 16 previous visits netted him an average of a 15th place finish, Johnson said he and the team became dedicated to improving their Bristol efforts.
"I worked so hard for this," Johnson said. "It's just awesome to finally win here…Man, it's about time."
Noted motorsports historian and author David McGee says it was a wild scene in Bristol's victory lane once Johnson finally notched his name alongside all of the other NASCAR greats who have conquered Bristol.
"He pulled the window net down took his car to pit road and does this huge burnout celebrating with everybody," McGee recalled. "Then, he does a burnout coming all the way up the ramp to Victory Lane, he gets out of the car and when you win the Food City 500 they will put a big bag of groceries on the car as part of a photo-op for Victory Lane. Johnson comes flying up out of the car and just starts slinging this stuff everywhere he was so happy to finally win at Bristol and in his post-race interview talked about how he always wanted to win at Bristol and how it's always meant so much to him. He talked about all the big names that have come along and won before him names like: Dale Earnhardt, former teammate Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon, and all these people that he respected and all these people that he grew up watching and that he respected racing and he saw them win at Bristol so for him to finally come here and win and finally get the monkey off of his back. He's probably the happiest winner I've ever seen here at Bristol."
That win in 2010 was also Johnson's milestone 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, so the celebration factor was doubled.
"Everything around Bristol is what people focus on. There are parties for it. The fans get excited for it. You walk into this facility and look around, and you want to run well," said a relieved Johnson after winning here in 2010. "It's really been a downer for me to walk through the gates, look around, 'Man, I'm going to (stink) today. I really had that mindset coming here."
In 2017, Johnson won at Bristol again. His car wasn't the fastest that day, but a late caution and a call to get four tires proved to be the difference maker in getting him around Clint Bowyer for the win. On Sunday, Johnson will try to win the historic Bristol Spring Race for the final time as a full-time Cup Series driver.
"Winning Bristol is an affirmation that you are one of the best," McGee said. "Because if you look at the history of this racetrack and you look at the drivers who have had multiple wins here they are some of the greatest names to have ever raced in NASCAR. Cale Yarbrough, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and on and on from the 1960s to the 2000s Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, all these guys who have not only won but have had multiple wins here at Bristol. Jimmie Johnson didn't want to end his career without a win at Bristol and he was able to put his name in that stellar group of multi-time winners. It's kind of like the cherry on top of the ice cream Sunday."
Interestingly, one driver alone may have been the biggest factor in why it was so difficult for Johnson to breakthrough and have success at Bristol Motor Speedway: Kyle Busch.
"Kyle has found the secret to making his way around Bristol like no one else except maybe Darrell Waltrip or some of these other legendary drivers," McGee said. "I think Jimmie could have won two or three more races here had it not been for the number 18 car. Kyle Busch has found the way into Victory Lane here better than most."
This weekend Busch will be going for a record-tying sixth victory in the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 and ninth BMS Cup Series victory. Busch has won the last two Food City 500s. His success at Bristol is legendary. He's won 22 major NASCAR races here including multiple victories in all three of its top series.
"I certainly look forward to Bristol, and I definitely have over the years," said Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing machine. "I definitely look forward to this weekend. We're hoping things will fall in place this weekend and we get to Victory Lane here again. That's always the goal."
As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway on May 31st for the milestone 60th running of the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500, race teams will be looking to create their own historic wow moments at the iconic all-concrete high-banked bullring just like Johnson and Busch have done during the last decade.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 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. In addition to Johnson and Busch, many of the greatest stock car racers in the world will compete, including second-generation star Chase Elliott, three-time Bristol winner Matt Kenseth, 2019 Night Race winner Denny Hamlin, two-time Night Race winner Joey Logano, veteran Clint Bowyer, Kyle's brother Kurt Busch, a six-time Bristol winner, fan-favorite Matt DiBenedetto 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 presents the Supermarket Heroes 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 email@example.com 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.
About Bristol Motor Speedway
Forged amid the scenic mountains of Northeast Tennessee near the Virginia state line, Bristol Motor Speedway is The Last Great Colosseum, a versatile multi-use venue that hosts major auto races, football games, concerts and many other captivating events. The facility features a 0.533-mile concrete oval race track with 28-degree corner banking and 650-feet straightaways that offers racing in several NASCAR touring series, highlighted by two major Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekends. While at the track, fans are offered a unique viewing experience courtesy of Colossus TV, the world's largest outdoor center-hung four-sided video screen with a 540,000-watt audio system. The adjacent quarter-mile dragstrip, Bristol Dragway, offers more than 50 events annually, including the marquee NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. The Thunder Valley Amphitheatre presented by Ballad Health transforms Bristol Dragway into a premier outdoor concert venue for the world's greatest music performers. Three football games have kicked-off inside the oval, most notably the 2016 Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol, where border rivals the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech met before an NCAA-record crowd of 156,990. In existence since 1961, Bristol Motor Speedway was purchased in 1996 by Bruton Smith and his Speedway Motorsports company, a leading marketer and promoter of motorsports entertainment in the United States. The Speedway Children's Charities Bristol Chapter was established the following year and has distributed nearly $16 million to local non-profit children's organizations within the sixteen counties surrounding the Speedway. For more information, please visit www.bristolmotorspeedway.com.