When NASCAR announced changes to the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule last season, one of the first things to jump out was that Bristol Motor Speedway finally got its March race date moved back to later in the spring.
For many years, Bristol has been one of the best stops on the entire schedule because its high speed half-mile track always produces great side-by-side racing that seems to generate the kind of finishing laps that make fans want to come back.
The only thing that Bristol couldn’t produce was the kind of weather that always made you look forward to coming back each March. East Tennessee weather in March can be very fickle. Longtime fans of the track know there have been race weekends that produced sunburns, but also some that produced snowball fights or the need to buy a rain poncho.
When the haulers roll into Bristol this weekend, the calendar will say April and with it the hope of a beautiful weekend for the running of the Food City 500. It will be the second short track race of the season and the first of two stops at Bristol. The return race at night in August is what most would say is the best race on the entire schedule.
The action at Bristol’s unique high-banked, all concrete track seems to scream old school racing with beating and banging always leeading to a driver’s temper getting away from him. That has never changed over the years, but what has changed is everything around the track.
Bristol has more than kept up with the other tracks on the schedule as far as keeping things modern for the race fans. It’s because of this rare combination of old school racing and modern amenities that the track has built such a loyal fan base. The track has had to work in recent years to sell tickets as the days of automatic sellouts in the sport are nothing more than a memory.
The track’s August night race is definitely the easier sell for the track because of its tremendous popularity. The spring race has always been the harder sell for the track, but it has been bolstered by its Food City sponsorship that is now the second longest race sponsorship in the series.
The track, as you would expect, has really promoted the race’s move to an April date, but you have to give Food City credit as all it has done to promote both the race and the track. Food City’s Race Night, which will be held at the track this Friday, gives every fan the opportunity to enjoy some free food and to meet some drivers and see their race cars.
Of course Bristol is still going to be at the mercy of Mother Nature this weekend, but you have to like its chances of getting the weather it wants as compared to a March race date. You also have to like the fact that regardless of the weather, the racing will be what we have always come to expect anytime the green flag waves.
PIT NOTES: Bristol was one of the first tracks to react to NASCAR’s new safety initiatives when it announced it would be adding 600 feet of safer barrier walls. The addition will complete the buildout of the front and backstretch outside walls. … Bristol is honoring Jeff Gordon’s retirement from the sport after this season by naming his children as the grand marshals for the Food City 500. Ella (age 7) and Leo (age 4) will give the command for their dad and 42 other drivers to “Start your engines.” NASCAR’s use of cameras on pit road to identify any violation during a pit stop took another step this past weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Now when a team commits an infraction, video evidence will be delivered to the crew chief on the pit box almost as soon as it is occurs.
. Race Preview Food City 500 Track: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533 mile oval, 24o-30o of banking in the turns) Date: April 19. 1 p.m. TV: FOX Radio: PRN Defending Champion: Carl Edwards