Bristol Motor Speedway had humble beginnings.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”241″][/media-credit]In 1960 Larry Carrier and Carl Moore visited Charlotte Motor Speedway and came away with a dream. They wanted to build a race track in Tennessee.
But the goal was not to imitate. They had a vision of a half-mile track with turns banked at 22 degrees and amphitheater style seating that would offer a more personal experience for race fans.
With the help of R.G. Pope, the dream of Bristol International Speedway became a reality and the first race was run on July 30, 1961. The seating capacity was 18,000.
A practice session was held for ‘The Volunteer 500’ on July 27, 1961 and Tiny Lund was the first driver on the new track. Fred Lorenzen won the pole for the first race with a speed of 79.225 mph. The 1960 Rookie of the Year, David Pearson, was there, becoming the first driver to drive the No. 3 at Bristol.
Jack Smith became the first winner at Bristol even though he wasn’t in the car when the race ended. He made it to lap 290 but had to turn the car over to relief driver Johnny Allen, due to severe blistering on his feet.
Throughout the years, there have been many changes. The name has changed, ownership has changed and the track has undergone a few makeovers.
In 1969 the banked turns were increased up to 36 degrees, the track size was enlarged to .533 miles and in 1992, they switched to a concrete surface. Today the seating capacity is approximately 160,000. The current Sprint Cup qualifying record is 128.709 mph and was set by Ryan Newman on March 21, 2003.
There has however been one constant. Bristol Motor Speedway is short track racing at its best. The drivers love it and the fans can’t get enough.
Dale Earnhardt got his first Cup win at Bristol in 1979. Other first time winners include Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Elliot Sadler and Kurt Busch.
The 2011 Sprint Cup season has already seen five first time winners. Will we add another name to the list at Bristol Motor Speedway?
Anticipation is building for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol this Saturday as drivers try to snare a spot in the Chase.
Kyle Busch has already clinched at least a Wild Card slot in the Chase with his win at Michigan. He is also a favorite to win this weekend. He swept all three series last August and has 11 wins at Bristol, including five in the Cup Series. Those five wins tie him with Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch, for most among active drivers.
Darrell Waltrip currently holds the record for most driver wins with 12 (7 consecutively).
We could also be looking at a little rivalry between the Busch brothers. Kyle’s win at Michigan was his 23rd Sprint Cup victory which mirrors brother Kurt’s 23 total wins.
Brad Keselowski is another one to watch at Bristol Saturday night.
Only a month ago he was 23rd in points and didn’t appear to have any chance of making the Chase. Three weeks ago, he broke his ankle and everyone counted him out. But then the unthinkable happened. Instead of giving up, he used the injury as motivation and has rebounded to 12th in the points standings.
His win at Pocono plus a second place finish at Watkins Glen and a third place finish at Michigan have moved him up to only 52 points outside the top ten.
For all the Chase contenders, the number to remember this weekend is 97. Any driver leaving Bristol with a 97 point lead over 11th place will guarantee themselves a spot in the Chase. All of the top eight drivers can mathematically reach this goal.
On the Wild Card front, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin have laid claim to the top two spots. Keselowski has two wins and Hamlin has one victory. Hamlin scores the second spot because of points position.
Paul Menard in 18th place and David Ragan in 20th, each have one win and are still in the running for a wild card slot. Marcos Ambrose and Regan Smith each have victories, but currently sit outside the top 20.
Bristol is also the final race for drivers to become eligible for the Sprint Summer Showdown. The Bristol winner will join Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch, who have all secured a spot. If one of these eligible drivers wins at Atlanta, they will claim a million dollar payout. The driver’s charity and one fan will also receive a million dollars.
It’s getting crunch time in the ‘Race to the Chase’ and Bristol Motor Speedway promises to deliver a night of excitement. You never know what will happen but one thing is certain. You don’t want to miss it.