Bristol Motor Speedway: Wikis


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Bristol Motor Speedway
Thunder Valley
World's Fastest Half Mile
BMS-Front Grandstand.jpg
The frontstretch of Bristol Motor Speedway
Location 151 Speedway Blvd., Bristol, Tennessee 37620
Time zone GMT-5
Coordinates 36°30′58″N 82°15′25″W / 36.516172°N 82.256945°W / 36.516172; -82.256945Coordinates: 36°30′58″N 82°15′25″W / 36.516172°N 82.256945°W / 36.516172; -82.256945
Capacity 160,000
Owner Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Operator Speedway Motorsports, Inc.
Broke ground 1960
Opened 1961
Construction cost $600,000
Architect Carl Moore
Larry Carrier
R.G. Pope
Former names Bristol International Raceway
Bristol Raceway
Major events NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Food City 500
Sharpie 500
NASCAR Nationwide Series
Scotts Turf Builder 300
Food City 250
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
O’Reilly 200
NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series
Thunder Valley Nationals
ASA Late Model Series
USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour
Surface Concrete
Length .533 mi (.858 km)
Turns 4
Banking Turns: 26-30°
Straights: 6-10°
Lap record 0:14.908 (Ryan Newman, Penske Racing, 2003, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)
Temporary Dirt Oval
Surface Clay
Length .533 mi (.858 km)
Turns 4
Banking Turns: 22-24°
Straights: 9°
Lap record 0:13.86 (Sammy Swindell, Swindell Motorsports, 2000, World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series)
Grandstand in 2007
Scoring pylon in August 2007
Sign proclaiming the track the "World's Fastest Half-Mile" in 2007

Bristol Motor Speedway, originally known as Bristol International Raceway and Bristol Raceway is a NASCAR short track located in Bristol, Tennessee. It was constructed in 1960, and held its first NASCAR race on July 30, 1961. Despite its small size, Bristol is among the most popular tracks in NASCAR due to its distinct features that include extraordinarily steep banking, an all concrete surface, two pit roads and amphitheater-like seating.



The track is so short that speeds here are far lower than is typical on most NASCAR oval tracks, but very fast compared to other short tracks due to the high banking, making for a considerable amount of "swapping paint". Also, the initial starting grid of 43 vehicles extends almost halfway around the track, meaning that the slower-qualifying cars begin the race almost half a lap down. The congestion inherent in this facility and the power of the cars has been likened to "flying fighter jets in a gymnasium" (the terms "washing machine" and "toilet" have also been used). The track is one that tends to be either loved or hated by fans and drivers alike--purists who grew up driving or attending races at older short tracks located at fairgrounds and similar places tend to love Bristol while those raised on superspeedway racing tend to chafe at the lower speeds.

Often, Bristol races are the scene of the highest number of yellow-flag caution laps in the NASCAR season; with so many cars in such a small space, contact is almost inevitable. Until the Beneficiary Rule was instituted in 2004 (the rule was instituted after the races at Bristol in 2003), the short lap length and the unpredictable nature of the racing meant that this was one of the few remaining NASCAR tracks at which it was feasible for a driver to come back to win a race from several laps down; at most modern tracks, especially superspeedways, that was almost impossible. The short lap length also cuts the other way; any unscheduled pit stop for reasons such as a cut tire will result in the driver going two or more laps down as it is almost impossible to get anything done to a car during the time taken to complete one circuit, especially under green-flag conditions (approximately 15 seconds). Thus, the disadvantage of losing laps means the chances of earning a free pass under the Beneficiary Rule is harder, since a driver losing two laps under a green-flag pit stop would have to race his way past the leader before the caution waved to regain one of his laps back, unless there are no cars one lap behind.

The drag strip at this facility has long been nicknamed Thunder Valley. Both current Sprint Cup Series races held at Bristol are for 500 laps; the spring race (historically a day race; however, the 2006 race ended under nighttime conditions because Standard Time and the late afternoon start) is sponsored by area grocery chain Food City, and considered one of NASCAR's top ten annual races.[1] The late summer race (the popular night-time race, considered "the toughest ticket in NASCAR" to obtain) has rotated among several sponsors; the current sponsor is Newell Rubbermaid's Sharpie marker.

Bristol is a very fertile ground for other levels and types of racing; Nationwide Series races here often draw over 100,000 spectators, making it one of the best-drawing Nationwide venues, and resulted in the Fox network televising the race nationally from 2004 to 2006, and ABC doing the same in 2007 and 2008.

In 2004, it was the first Nationwide Series race of the season televised on broadcast network television, and the race, which had been 150 laps in 1982, 200 laps in 1984, and 250 laps since 1990, was a 300-lap race in 2006.

It is also the home of the only midweek (Wednesday) night NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, held in conjunction with a USAR Hooters ProCup event.

Many of the fans come from the East Tennessee area, but thousands more come from all parts of the country to experience Bristol's unique brand of racing. Even in the off-season, the complex attracts fans during the Christmas season by facilitating a miles-long holiday lights display that culminates with a lap on the actual speedway track itself.

Degree of banking

Although the track still advertises the banking as 36 degrees, which would make it the most steeply banked track used by NASCAR, it is now accepted that the actual banking ranges from 24 to 30 degrees after the track's most recent resurfacing in 2010.

Even before the resurfacing, there was some dispute as to the accuracy of the measurement. In the 1980s, ESPN often claimed the turns were banked at 35 degrees during television telecast of events at the track. In an interview with Stock Car Racing's Larry Cothren, driver Ryan Newman openly disputed the measurement of the banking of Bristol Motor Speedway's turns. Newman's crew measured the banking during a test session to aid with setups, and found that the turns were banked 26 degrees, rather than the advertised 36 degrees. A Camping World Truck Series open test noted the banking had dropped following resurfacing, to 22-27 degrees, in a variable banking configuration,[2] while the track still advertises 36 degree banking.

Pit roads

Another anomaly is that the short overall length means that there are two sets of pits. Until 2002, slower starters were relegated to those on the backstretch. In 2002, the rules were changed to form essentially one long pit road. During caution periods, cars wishing to pit must enter pit road in turn two, drive all the way down the back stretch, through turns three and four and down the front stretch, exiting pit road in turn one. This rule eliminated the inherent disadvantage of pitting on the back stretch. Pit stops under green flag conditions have different rules. Cars with pits on the back stretch enter the pits in turn two and exit in turn three; Cars with pits on the front stretch enter the pits in turn four and exit in turn one. Since the new pit rules were instituted, several drivers (most notably, Jeff Gordon[3]) have made major mistakes during green flag pit stops by driving through both pit roads when only one is necessary for green flag pit stops.

Track history

Bristol Motor Speedway could very easily have opened in 1961 under a different name. The first proposed site for the speedway was in Piney Flats but, according to Carl Moore, who built the track along with Larry Carrier and R.G. Pope, the idea met local opposition. So the track that could have been called Piney Flats International Speedway, was built five miles (8 km) down the road on Highway 11-E in Bristol. The land, upon which Bristol Motor Speedway is built, used to be a dairy farm. Larry Carrier and Carl Moore traveled to Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960 to watch a race and it was then that they decided to build a speedway in northeast Tennessee. However, they wanted a smaller model of CMS, something with a more intimate setting and opted to erect a half-mile facility instead of mirroring the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) track in Charlotte.

Work began on what was then called Bristol International Speedway in 1960 and it took approximately one year to finish. Carrier, Moore and Pope scratched many ideas for the track on envelopes and brown paper bags.

Purchase of the land on which BMS now sits, as well as initial construction of the track, cost approximately $600,000. The entire layout for BMS covered 100 acres (0.40 km2) and provided parking for more than 12,000 cars. The track itself was a perfect half-mile, measuring 60 feet (18 m) wide on the straightaways, 75 feet (23 m) wide in the turns and the turns were banked at 22 degrees. Seating capacity for the very first NASCAR race at BMS – held on July 30, 1961 – was 18,000. Prior to this race the speedway hosted weekly races. The first driver on the track for practice on July 27, 1961 was Tiny Lund in his Pontiac. The second driver out was David Pearson. Fred Lorenzen won the pole for the first race at BMS with a speed of 79.225 mph (127.500 km/h). Atlanta’s Jack Smith won the inaugural event – the Volunteer 500 – at BMS. However, Smith wasn’t in the driver’s seat of the Pontiac when the race ended. Smith drove the first 290 laps then had to have Johnny Allen, also of Atlanta, take over as his relief driver. The two shared the $3,225 purse. The total purse for the race was $16,625. Country music star Brenda Lee, who was 17 at the time, sang the national anthem for the first race at BMS. A total of 42 cars started the first race at BMS but only 19 finished.

One of Bristol's 2 cars that hit the turn 2 wall, this was used to be driven by Michael Waltrip in 1990

In the fall of 1969 BMS was reshaped and re-measured. The turns were banked at 36 degrees and it became a 0.533-mile (0.858 km) oval.

The speedway was sold after the 1976 season to Lanny Hester and Gary Baker. In the spring of 1978 the track name was changed to Bristol International Raceway. In August of that year, the first night race was held on the oval, one that would become one of the most popular and highly anticipated events on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series calendar.

On April 1, 1982 Lanny Hester sold his half of the speedway to Warner Hodgdon. On July 6, 1983, Hodgdon completed 100 percent purchase of Bristol Motor Speedway, as well as Nashville Speedway, in a buy-sell agreement with Baker. Hodgdon named Larry Carrier as the track’s general manager. On January 11, 1985, Hodgdon filed for bankruptcy. Afterwards, Larry Carrier formally took possession of the speedway and covered all outstanding debts.

For many years, teams were unable to park their transporters inside the infield. Nor did the track have any significant garage area. Team transporters were parked in a lot outside of the track. During racing periods, crews and participants were landlocked by the track, and thus, unable to return to the transporters for spare parts, repairs, or rest. In the early 1990s, the infield was reconfigured, and completely paved. Teams began parking the transporters in an orchestrated, extremely tight arrangement that takes several hours, and highly skilled drivers, to accomplish. Teams are now able to work out of their transporters in the same fashion as other facilities.

In 1992, the speedway abandoned the asphalt surface that it had used since its inception, switching to the concrete surface it is now famous for.

On Jan. 22, 1996, Larry Carrier sold the speedway to Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI), at a purchase price of $26 million. At the time of the sale, the facility seated 71,000. On May 28 of that same year, the track’s name was officially changed to Bristol Motor Speedway. By August, 15,000 seats had been added bringing the seating capacity to 86,000.

BMS continued to grow and by April 1997 was the largest sports arena in Tennessee and one of the largest in the country, seating 118,000. The speedway also boasted 22 new skyboxes. For the August 1998 Goody’s 500 the speedway featured more than 131,000 grandstand seats and 100 skyboxes. Improvements to the speedway since Smith took possession are in excess of $50 million. Under Smith's ownership, all seating sections have been renamed for past race winners and NASCAR champions.

The capacity for the Food City 500 in March 2000 was 147,000 as the Kulwicki Terrace and Kulwicki Tower were completed. Both were named after the late NASCAR star Alan Kulwicki, who was the reigning NASCAR champion when he died in a plane crash in 1993 while on his way to the spring race at Bristol, which he won the previous year. As a tribute to retiring star Darrell Waltrip, the entire Turn 3 and 4 sections were renamed in his honor in 2000, including a section of seats in Turn 4 near the start-finish line marked as alcohol free. (Waltrip refused to drive for a team in 1987 because its sponsor was of alcoholic beverages.) The Allison family and David Pearson were also each given grandstands as part of the renaming of grandstands.

In 2000 and again in 2001, the track was temporarily converted to a dirt track to host the World of Outlaws' Channellock Challenge. The conversion involved moving 8,000 cubic feet (230 m3) of red clay onto the track's surface.[4] 700 cubic yards (540 m3) of sawdust were laid down first to cover the paved surface. The track was widened by 12 to 14 feet (4.3 m) and the banking was lowered to 22 to 24°.[5]

As has been the case since the SMI purchase of BMS, improvements continued in and around the Speedway. The 2002 season saw the addition of a long-awaited infield pedestrian tunnel, allowing access into and out of the infield during on-track activity. Also in 2002, a new building was constructed in the infield to house driver meetings. That same year also witnessed the christening of a new BMS Victory Lane atop the newly constructed building. Kurt Busch won the 2002 Food City 500 on March 24 and became the first Cup winner in the new BMS winner's circle. Additional improvements in 2002 included new scoreboards located on the facing of the suites in Turns 2 and 3.

On Monday, August 26, 2002 work began on the most ambitious construction project since SMI's purchase of BMS in 1996. The entire backstretch, including the Speedway’s last remaining concrete seats, was demolished. The new backstretch increased the venue’s seating capacity to more than 160,000. The new backstretch includes three levels of seating and is topped with 52 luxury skybox suites. These seats are also named for NASCAR figures, with Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Robert Glen Johnson, Jr. each having a section of the new seats named for them. Dale Earnhardt was given a section in his memory on top.

Kulwicki Grandstand before 2006 Sharpie 500

A 5,000 seat section of the Turn 1 and 2 grandstand, on top of the Alan Kulwicki Grandstand, is now named the Wallace Tower. Additional improvements included a scoring pylon with a four-sided video screen akin to those in sports arenas hanging from their ceilings, and after the 2007 Food City 500, a resurfacing of the entire concrete track along with widening the track three feet and reshaping the turns with variable banking, which was completed for the 2007 Sharpie 500 in August and their support events in the Busch (now Nationwide Series) and Craftsman Truck Series(now Camping World Truck series)

A Guinness World Record was set in August 2008 when the sell-out crowd completed the largest crowd-wave in history.[6]

Another World Record was set it August 2009 for the largest karaoke with a sold out crowd. Later, when the race was red flagged, the crowd performed the wave again, apparently tying the world record.

Bristol Dragway

In addition to the speedway, there is a quarter mile dragstrip that hosts an annual NHRA event each year. Prior to its status as an NHRA national event track, the Bristol Dragway was the flagship strip of the rival IHRA organization; the strip's owner Larry Carrier formed the IHRA at the Bristol Dragway in November 1970. The relationship ended when Bruton Smith took over its ownership. The dragstrip has long been nicknamed Thunder Valley due to its location and surrounding scenery.

(Ironically, Carrier's sons now field cars in the NHRA.)

Other uses of Bristol Motor Speedway

In 2005, track owner Bruton Smith made a public offer of $20 million apiece to the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech to schedule a non-conference college football game between the powerhouse Volunteers and Hokies' programs. Smith suggested that grass could be grown in the infield section of the racetrack. Virginia Tech showed much interest and nearly agreed to the proposal but Tennessee on the other hand showed little or no interest and in fact avoided the offer which made this possibility ultimately fall by the wayside.[7]

If a football game was held at BMS, it would undoubtedly draw over 150,000 spectators, which would break all previous American team sports records for attendance. The track's location near the Virginia/Tennessee state line puts BMS about 125 miles (201 km) from Tech's campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, and about 110 miles (180 km) from the UT campus in Knoxville, Tennessee. However, holding a football game at the site would now seem highly impractical following the recent construction of the aforementioned scoring pylon and four-sided video screen in the middle of the infield.

The 2006 Disney-Pixar film Cars used Bristol Motor Speedway as the basis for the racetrack seen in the film's opening race, the "Motor Speedway of the South." The size of the track was increased to give it a more stadium-like appearance.

In the fall of 2002 students from Sullivan East High School in Bluff City attended the skyboxes at the Speedway as temporary schooling, due to an outbreak of black mold that closed the school for nearly 6 weeks.





  • NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying: Ryan Newman, 14.908 s (128.709 mph), 2003
  • NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race (500 laps): Charlie Glotzbach, 2 h 38 min 12 s (101.074 mph), July 11, 1971
  • NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying: Greg Biffle, 15.093 s (127.132 mph), 2004
  • NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (300 laps): Kyle Busch, 2:13:59 (71.606 mph), March 25, 2006
  • NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (250 laps): Harry Gant, 1 h 26 min 2 s (92.929 mph), April 4, 1992
  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying: Ken Schrader, 15.118 s (126.922 mph), 2004
  • NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race (200 laps): Travis Kvapil, 1 h 12 min 1 s (88.813 mph), August 20, 2003
  • ASA Late Model Series Qualifying: Justin Larson, 15.147 s (126.678 mph), 2008
  • On August 25 of 2008 at the Sharpie 500, Bristol Motor Speedway set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Card Stunt performed at one time. The stunt was performed by the NASCAR fans who attended the event during the National Anthem. The stunt started with an American Flag that covered the entire stands during the National Anthem and was then followed by another stunt which was an advertisement for a Sprint Nextel Fan Sweepstakes.
  • On March 25, 2007, the first race featuring NASCAR's new car design, the "Car of Tomorrow" (COT) was run at Bristol Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon won the first ever pole award in a Car of Tomorrow, and Kyle Busch won the race, becoming the first winner in the COT.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway is a true amphitheatre being completely enclosed by seating, able to hold 165,000 people, also making it the largest in the world. Roman Colosseum seating capacity was 50,000 people, and the Circus Maximus, a hippodrome, could accommodate an estimated 250,000 spectators.


  1. ^ NASCAR's Best Races
  2. ^ Drivers Give New Bristol Concrete a Workout
  3. ^"Bristol Race Recap" Retrieved January 16, 2009
  4. ^ Report on the conversion
  5. ^ Report on the conversion
  6. ^ Crowd wave at BMS sets Guinness World Record
  7. ^ "Hokies-Volunteers football game at standstill til offer" Retrieved January 16, 2009

External links

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