World Long Drive competitors make a quick pit stop to The Last Great Colosseum
Three of the top contenders for this weekend's World Long Drive championship at Meadowview Conference Center in Kingsport took to the legendary high banks at Bristol Motor Speedway Monday to try some driving of a different kind. NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chad Finchum, from nearby Knoxville, was on hand along with BMS general manager Jerry Caldwell to give the trio some track laps along with some pointers for navigating their way around the World's Fastest Half-Mile.
Long Drive stars Martin Borgmeier of Germany, London's James Tait and Ryan Reisbeck of Layton, Utah, mashed the gas in high-revving Chevy Camaro BMS Pace Cars to knock a bucket list item off their list. The three have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Tennessee Big Shots event and will be launching golf balls into the stratosphere as they compete for victory tonight on the Golf Channel at 5 p.m. ET.
Finchum, who is entered in both the Food City 300 Xfinity Series race Friday under the lights and Thursday night's UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, told the guys all the secrets he knows for making a fast lap on the all-concrete bullring.
"Bristol is one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit, and it's a tough short track so there's always a lot going on," Finchum said. "I was showing them the bottom groove and the top and how to approach the corners with different speeds. They were having a blast out there. It definitely adds an element of respect for people to come out here and try it, with the high banking, bumps and g-forces, and it opens some eyes a little bit to just how demanding this sport is."
Reisbeck, who has hit a golf ball an amazing 485 yards in competition, was proud of his lap speed of 87 mph. Although rivals Borgmeier and Tait were jokingly calling him out, saying he actually only got it up to about 84 mph.
"All I can say is I saw an 8 and a 7 and then I started braking because I was getting scared," Reisbeck said with a smile, defending his effort.
"I can't imagine being in there for 500 laps, it would beat you up so bad," he continued. "The g-force is pulling you so hard in the turns you have to resist so hard and every few seconds you are bracing around the turns. Having 40 cars out on the track at the same time would be awfully crowded. The low groove kinda scared me, but going high did too because I felt like I was going faster and that wall was right there. It was a lot of fun."
The 6-foot-5 Borgmeier, who grew up in Munich, says he's driven fast on the famed Autobahn, a highway in Germany that features long stretches with unrestricted speed limits, but he says even that was nothing like the Last Great Colosseum.
"The Autobahn is fast and I used to drive fast there, but it's not as intense as this," said Borgmeier, who said his fastest lap registered at 85 mph. "It's crazy, you are getting pushed so hard up in your seat. I am sweating after five laps and I haven't done anything. I hope I have some energy left for tonight. I only drove 10 laps and the NASCAR drivers are going 500, that's just crazy. All the respect to those guys. Wow, just hearing that car I can't imagine how loud it must be here during the NASCAR races."
Tait, who grew up in Scotland and got to play golf at historic St. Andrews once a week, saw the Camaro's speedometer hit 86 mph, and celebrated being the fastest of the trio after he said Reisbeck's 87 mph claim wasn't accurate.
"That was so much fun," Tait said. "I felt like I was on one of those circus rides and it spins you round and round. It was insane considering back home the speed limit is 70 mph in the straights. Going around the corner at 70 here the g-forces are ridiculous, you feel like you are going so much faster than you actually are. It's awesome to see how much control the car has around that banking. What an experience. It was so much fun. I'd love to do it again for sure."
Tait, whose longest drive in competition is 402 yards, said taking fast laps around the track confirms that race car drivers are definitely athletes and maybe just a little on the wild side too.
"I think you have to be in peak physical craziness to do this," Tait said with a laugh. "Your mental approach is like any other sport, you have to be so focused on it when you are doing that many laps. We are only doing 86 mph, so I can't imagine going 130 mph like the NASCAR drivers do."
Finchum took the opportunity to grab some pointers from the guys about his golf game, which he said could use some help. Reisbeck told him to focus on making good solid contact with the golf ball and try to avoid the temptation of swinging out of his shoes.
"He was telling me to be calm and smooth and have a good motion through the swing and a good clean hit is much better than being aggressive," Finchum said. "It's kind of funny because that advice is the same in racing. People think driving a race car you want to go as hard and as fast as you can all the time, but there's a method that racers use where you actually have to slow down to go faster. When you slow down a bit entering a corner, you can actually pick up overall speed, so what he said about the golf swing made sense to me."
This weekend, NASCAR fans will once again be able to cheer on their favorite drivers and watch some amazing finishes as the greatest stock car drivers in the world battle on the all-concrete high banks. Bristol dominator Kyle Busch, his brother and defending Night Race winner Kurt Busch, red-hot Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, defending series champion Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Blaney will all be looking to take home the Gladiator sword from The Last Great Colosseum during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
During the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race weekend you'll definitely want to take advantage of so many activities to make a complete weekend of family fun, including great video entertainment provided by Colossus TV, the world's largest center-hung video screen, premium VIP experiences like the Chairman's Experience, tailgating, a visit to the Kids Zone, on-site camping, concerts, great food and beverages in the concession stands throughout the property, and so much more.
If you want to bring the entire clan out to experience the amazing fun that is America's Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway officials are making it easier than ever for families to enjoy the weekend. Kids' tickets (12 and under) are free and adult tickets are $35 for Thursday's (Aug. 15) UNOH 200 and Bush's Beans 150 doubleheader. On Friday (Aug. 16), kids' tickets are free and adult tickets start at $35 for the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race and Pinty's Qualifying for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. On Saturday night (August 17) adult tickets start at $70 for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and kids' tickets are $10. For all races, each child must have a physical ticket in hand to enter the gates. The Bristol Motor Speedway ticket office is the only authorized location that can produce the free kids' tickets.
Fans can grab tickets at their neighborhood Food City for only $60 while buying their race essentials. But act fast, in-store sales end at store closing time this Tuesday, Aug. 13. A two-day weekend package is also available through the BMS ticket office, beginning at just $95. Visit BristolTix.com or call 423-BRISTOL.