NASCAR heads off to Bristol Motor Speedway this week. So, before we start looking at what's happening in the top level of stock car racing now, let's look back at some of the more memorable NASCAR moments at Bristol.
A Brief Overview
It's gained its share of nicknames over the years. "Thunder Valley." "The Last Great Colosseum." "The World's Fastest Half-Mile." "The Bullring." Bristol is one of the most memorable and distinctive tracks on the NASCAR schedule, and has been since it held its first NASCAR race on July 30th, 1961, less than a year after construction finished. It's known for its steep 36-degree banking, concrete surface, two pit roads, and stadium-like layout. It's the third-largest sports venue in the US, seating 162,000 people. It's a short track, but the cars carry speed through the banking, allowing lots of action in the race. It's easily NASCAR's loudest race.
First Winner Never Crossed the Line
Jack Smith is the first NASCAR Grand National (now Monster Energy Series) winner at Bristol International Speedway (now Bristol Motor Speedway). However, he didn't actually cross the line at the end of the race. After completing 290 of the 500 laps, he handed the car to his relief driver, Johnny Allen, who drove the car to victory. However, because of NASCAR rules at the time, he is credited as the winner of the Volunteer 500 and therefore is the first winner at Bristol.
Earnhardt's First Win
NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and 7-time series champion Dale Earnhardt earned his first premier series win at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1979, when he was 27 years old.
A Really Close Finish
In the final 10 laps of the 1990 ValleyDale Meats 500, the order ran: Davey Allison, Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, and Ricky Rudd, who were all separated by just seconds. On the last lap, Rudd hit Marlin and sent him into the outside wall. As Allison and Martin raced to the finish line, Martin went low and hit Allison as they crossed the line. After reviewing photos and videos, NASCAR declared Allison the winner.
In 1992, Waltrip won his twelfth and final Bristol race. He still holds the record for the most wins at the track.'
'I Meant to Rattle His Cage'
In 1999, Earnhardt was in the lead when Terry Labonte passed him on newer tires. 'The Intimidator' got beside Labonte and spun him, which collected other cars in a massive wreck. Earnhardt went on to win. After the race he said, "I didn't mean to turn him around, I meant to rattle his cage."
In the Spring of 2010, Jimmy Johnson scored his 50th win at Bristol, on the way to a fifth championship.
In 2012, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart battled for the lead and got into the wall. Stewart took his car down pit road for repairs and threw his helmet at Kenseth's Ford as it drove past. He said, "I'm going to run over him every chance I get for the rest of the year."
2 X 3
In 2017, Kyle Busch won all three national series races - the truck series, Xfinity Series, and Monster Energy series - all in the same weekend. No other driver has ever done it. And 2017 marked his second time doing it, both at Bristol!
What'll Happen This Year?
There have been many more memorable Bristol moments that aren't in this list. Can you think of any? Will this year's race be memorable?