Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular venues of the NASCAR schedule. This half-mile oval is known for always providing spectacular races, made of continuous contacts between the cars that often result both in drivers wrecking each other on the racetrack and in fights on pit road. The races held at Bristol are, to summarize, the most amazing example of short track racing and always create a great excitement for NASCAR fans.
Bristol being completely surrounded by grandstands is a real amphitheatre, the largest in the world. Because of its similarity with the mastodontic building of the roman age, its been defined “The Last Great Colosseum”. What’s the history of this famous track though?
Work on what was then called Bristol International Speedway began in 1960. The owner of the land on which it was built had previously gone to Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch a race at the 1.5 miler and decided to build a smaller version of it on his land.
The first NASCAR race held there took place in 1961 and only 19 of the 42 cars that had started the race finished it. The oval underwent several upgrades and changes in the following years which included a higher banking and a slight lengthening of the racetrack and in 1978 the first night race was completed.
After a series of alternations between many people and owners of the oval, the track infield was reorganized and repaved to allow teams to park their transporters more easily in the early ’90s. The track surface was turned from asphalt to its now famous concrete during that repave. Meanwhile, the seating capacity continued to grow and now the grandstands of Bristol can contain more than 160.000 people. This peculiarity makes it the fourth largest sports venue in the USA. Many of the sectors that make up the grandstands are dedicated to past NASCAR champions such as Junior Johnson and Richard Petty.
In 2000 a tower and a terrace were built in honor of Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Winston Cup champion who died in 1993 in an airplane crash while on his way to Bristol. In the same year the oval was turned temporarily into a dirt track and in 2008 a Guinness World Record was set at the speedway: the largest crowd-wave in history was performed by the fans during the day of the race.
This track has seen the wins of a great amount of NASCAR champions who, with their success, contributed to its fame. The all-time winningest driver at Bristol is Darrell Waltrip, who has 12 wins of which 7 were consecutive. The driver with the most top-five finishes of all time is Richard Petty (26); he also has the most top-10 finishes (37) and the most starts at the speedway (60). Among active drivers, the ones with the most victories at “The World’s Fastest Half Mile” are Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch, with five wins each.
That said, we will have to wait until Sunday (if the weather is merciful and does not spoil the show) to see if one of them can go to victory lane again.