Bristol Motor Speedway – Did You Know?

by Angela Campbell On Thu, Apr. 20, 2017

Photo Credit: Lee Berard/xspimages

NASCAR travels to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend for the Monster Energy Cup Series Food City 500. The first Food City 500 was held on April 5, 1992, 25 years ago. But did you know that it was won by Alan Kulwicki who started from the pole and led 252 laps to claim his second consecutive victory at Bristol? It was the final race on the asphalt surface (it was changed to an all-concrete surface later that year) and it was also the last one to be run on bias-ply tires.

The inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race, the Volunteer 500, was held on July 30, 1961 and country music icon Brenda Lee, who was only 17 at the time, sang the national anthem. Tiny Lund was first on the track for practice and Fred Lorenzen won the pole with a speed of 79.225 mph. But did you know that of the 42 competitors who started the race, 11 of those drivers (more than 25 percent) would later be included on NASCAR’s 1998 list of its 50 greatest drivers?

Jack Smith won the Volunteer 500 but he only drove the first 290 laps. The intense heat in the car blistered his feet and he had to turn to a relief driver, Johnny Allen, to complete the race for him. Allen finished two seconds ahead of Fireball Roberts. Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Buddy Baker finished third through fifth, respectively.

There have been 112 Cup races since then, two each season. Forty-two different drivers have won at Bristol led by Darrell Waltrip with 12 victories. Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch lead active drivers with five wins each.

Qualifying will be especially important this weekend at Bristol as 89 of the 112 (79.4 percent) Cup races have been won from a top 10 starting position. But did you know that 24 of the races have been won from the pole (21.6 percent) making it the most productive starting position? Carl Edwards, the defending spring race winner, was the last driver to win from the pole.

Heading to Bristol, Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch have the top two driver ratings at the .533-mile track. Kenseth has the series-best driver rating (100.9), four wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s and two poles. Busch’s stats are equally impressive with the second-best driver rating (100.5), five wins, eight top fives, 13 top 10s and one pole. But did you know that Busch is also the youngest Bristol winner (03/25/2007) at 21 years, 10 months and 23 days?

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick has the series third-best driver rating (95.7) at Bristol to go along with his two wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s and one pole. Harvick has led the most laps this year, 419, and is looking for his first win this season.

Bristol Motor Speedway has provided some of the most intense short track racing in the series. It has long been a fan and driver favorite as it brings out the best and sometimes worst in the competitors. The key to success, according to Richard Childress Racing driver Paul Menard, is rhythm and precision.

“Bristol is a rhythm racetrack, you get in the race and just hit your marks, and get into a groove. To make a pass you have to break that rhythm and then quickly get back into it. The key is doing that and not making a mistake. You’ve got to stay in your groove.”

Recalling his first time at the track while testing a car, he said, “I ran about 20 laps and was totally out of breath. I was convinced that you couldn’t fit 43 cars on the racetrack. But, as we all know, you definitely can.”

The Food City 500 will be televised on FOX Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. with radio coverage on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio. Check out the video below for some memorable highlights from the ‘World’s Fastest Half-Mile.’

Follow @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.


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