Cup Series stars Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones and Zane Smith help apply first ceremonial brush strokes
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Feb. 8, 2024) – If these walls could talk, oh the stories they would tell…
Bristol Motor Speedway officials announced today it is going retro on its track walls that surround the fabled all-concrete high-banks as part of its throwback theme for the Food City 500 NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday afternoon, March 17 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday night, March 16, the WEATHER GUARD Truck Race.
The iconic track’s walls have been witness to some incredible moments in NASCAR history since the track opened for business in 1961 and for many years were painted in red and white stripes during the sport’s early days, as a tribute to the support and funding provided by NASCAR’s series sponsor at the time, R.J. Reynolds. The 1995 season was the last time Bristol Motor Speedway featured the red and white strip look.
The classic design around the .533-mile bullring that’s been christened the “Holy Grail of Short Tracks” and “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” will certainly resonate boldly with fans, teams, drivers and everyone in the industry.
“We looked back at the footage from the first Food City 500 in 1992 and those were the colors on the track walls, so we thought it would be a fun touch for the fans to recreate that,” said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway. “There have been so many iconic moments for the sport of NASCAR to take place on this track and inside these walls, we hope to be able to share more of those ‘wow’ moments with fans on Sunday afternoon, March 17.”
To help start the process of getting the walls ready for the upcoming race weekend, Cup Series stars Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones and Zane Smith were on hand and provided the first ceremonial brush strokes for the project. The three drivers were in town participating in a closed NASCAR test session.
“You like to see Bristol changing it up and keeping it fresh; what’s old is now new again, and that’s cool too,” said Keselowski, the driver of the No. 6 RFK Racing machine and a five-time Bristol winner, including three Cup, and one Xfinity and Truck win each.
“I’m glad to see the race come back to the concrete in the spring,” added Keselowski, who won the 2020 Food City Supermarket Heroes 500, the last spring race on the concrete surface before three years of dirt. “When we change things up, those seem to last a year or two, and then you have to change them up again.”
As a student of NASCAR history, Jones says he is always up for some throwback activities.
“I’ve never raced here on anything but the black walls so that’s going to be really cool,” said Jones, the driver of the No. 43 LEGACY MOTOR CLUB machine and a two-time Xfinity Series winner at Bristol. “It’ll look pretty neat, it will be cool to see something totally different and coming back on the concrete in the spring is gonna be fun. It’s cool to have two races again at Bristol because I think it’s one of our best short tracks. I’m just happy that we are back on concrete for both of them.”
Like Jones, Smith has only raced at Bristol with the black walls and no matter the color of the walls, he’s just looking forward to two opportunities to race his Cup car at the venerable track on the concrete surface.
“This place is like no other, it just brings a different vibe and atmosphere,” said high-profile Cup Series rookie Smith, who will drive the No. 71 Chevy for Spire Motorsports. “It’s just an awesome bullring and I am super excited to get to come here twice now.”
The track operations team responsible for the project estimated it will take approximately 195 gallons of paint, including 115 gallons of white and 80 gallons of red. It will take three coats of paint to cover the existing black walls. There is approximately 2,700 feet of wall to be painted and the team estimates the project will be completed in two weeks, pending weather.
“First we will scrape the wall to get all the chunks and built up paint and flakes removed,” said Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development for Speedway Motorsports. “Once that is completed, we will apply a coat of primer and then follow that with the paint. This job will take three coats of paint to fully cover the black wall, around 200 gallons of paint total. We will have a four-man crew to complete the job in the time frame we have. We will also have to add small red lines at the bottom of the white sections in the turns to help the drivers discern the wall from the track.”
Bristol Motor Speedway will briefly join Darlington and North Wilkesboro as the only tracks on the circuit with the red and white stripe track walls. The Bristol track walls will return to their more recent traditional black for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race weekend in September.
The Bristol race weekend will feature action in the NASCAR Cup Series with the tradition-rich Food City 500 on Sunday afternoon, March 17 (3:30 p.m., FOX and PRN Radio) with current champ Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin leading the way. Saturday afternoon’s Bush’s Beans Practice and Bush’s Beans Qualifying will precede Saturday night’s WEATHER GUARD® Truck Race. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series stars Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger, Nick Sanchez, Corey Heim, Ty Dillon and Christian Eckes, among others, are scheduled to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET for the 250-lap thriller.
To purchase tickets for the Food City 500 or the WEATHER GUARD® Truck Race, please visit the BMS website, or call the BMS Ticket Sales Center at (866) 415-4158.
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 Cup Series weekends each year. In 2020, the track also served as host of the prestigious NASCAR All-Star Race, and from 2021-2023 converted to a temporary dirt track each spring to take the Cup Series back to its racing roots. 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 Speedway Motorsports, a leading marketer and promoter of motorsports entertainment in the United States.