Until the day that Kentucky Speedway can officially say that it has a spot on the Sprint Cup schedule, Bristol Motor Speedway will be considered the “home” track of Kentucky.
The world’s fastest half-mile track is just a couple hours east of the border, and every fan that has ever made the pilgrimage to Bristol will tell you it’s the perfect track to watch a race.
It holds the distinction of being one of only three short tracks still on the schedule. This is not to slight the sister short tracks of Richmond and Martinsville, but Bristol is unique in that it is only a half-mile track reconstructed, thanks to the vision of owner Bruton Smith, to hold 160,000 on race day.
There is no denying that the action produced on the old throwback racing surface is the main drawing card for the track, but that is not all there is to do for a race fan that makes the trip to Bristol. Bristol is one of the few stops on the schedule that is actually a destination instead of just a race. Daytona with its beach and Vegas with its gambling also falls into that category, but for Bristol its all about the racetrack.
Campers started rolling into Bristol this past Sunday to stake claim to a spot close the track, as those seasoned fans know that starting on Friday, the action around the track will be non-stop as track officials make sure that there is a wide variety of activities to occupy a fan’s weekend. Friday kicks off the weekend with Pole Day activity, which leads directly to Food City’s Race Night activities held right on the grounds of the speedway.
Food City’s Race Night has long been a staple of both the spring and fall races at the track and last March for the first time the event was actually held on the grounds of the speedway. It tied in perfectly with Pole Day as fans can take in two great events without ever having to move their cars. Race Night gives fans the chance to get the autographs of some of the biggest names in the garage area as well as see dozens of show cars representing the races on the track. There’s plenty of entertainment to go along with all of the free food that Food City and its vendors give away.
Saturday is when the racing gets underway with the running of the Nationwide Series’ Scotts Turf Builder 300. That race will include some Sprint Cup Series drivers, which always amps up the intensity on the track. Immediately following that event will be the second installment of Bristol’s legends race that will include some of the biggest names to ever race in the sport. Last season Bristol offi cials decided to bring back some of the most successful drivers to ever race at the speedway, and the result was a very entertaining and highly competitive event which saw Sterling Marling make an appearance in the track’s hallowed victory lane.
This year Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Harry Gant, L.D. Ottinger and David Marcus will make up part of the 12-driver lineup that will compete in the 35-lap Scotts EZ Seed Showdown, that will give one former driver a chance to take another checkered flag. The speedway will provide the cars for the former greats and the race should ensure another highly competitive Bristol finish.
If you still haven’t had your fill of racing when Sunday rolls around, then its time for 500 laps of some of the tightest racing that you will find on the schedule. The Food City 500 has long been the early point on the schedule that begins separating the contenders for the title. Just finishing is an accomplishment as there is just no room to avoid wrecks and that usually leads to some very rough racing with plenty of bumping and rubbing.
All eyes will be on this race after NASCAR stood behind its policy of letting the drivers settle their diff erences on the track when it didn’t fine or take away any points from Carl Edwards after his bump of Brad Keselowski. NASCAR’s new mindset is perfect for Bristol, as it has always been the track where tempers run hotter than the cars themselves. You just get the feeling that Bristol will once again provide us with some “racin’ the way it ought’a be!”
Race Preview — Event:
Food City 500. Track:
Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval, 24-30 degrees of banking in the turns). Date:
March 21, 1 p.m. TV:
PRN. Defending champion: