|Matt Kenseth at Bristol in April 2015|
credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Brian Lawdermilk
One of the most popular tracks on the NASCAR circuit for fans and drivers alike is Bristol Motor Speedway, which was constructed in 1960 and opened in 1961. The 0.533-mile short track in Bristol, Tennessee has a seating capacity of 160,000 in its stadium-like setting, giving everyone a great view of the action – and leading to an upcoming event like no other. Leading into the second race weekend of the season at the track, here are the updated Fast Facts on the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” originally published in August 2011.
- Tiny Lund was the first driver to set wheels on the track on July 27, 1961; Fred Lorenzen won the first pole position for the Volunteer 500. Only 19 of 42 cars that started actually finished the race, which was “won” by Jack Smith, who wasn’t in the car at the end of the race – Johnny Allen took over around lap 290 of 500 after Smith developed heat blisters on his feet. Completing the top five were some of the sport’s soon-to-be heroes: Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Buddy Baker.
- The high banks we know today came about in 1969 when the track was dug up and expanded from a half-mile to a 0.533-mile track. The higher banks, advertised at 36-degrees, were also added, and immediately added to speeds: whereas the track record to that point was Bobby Isaac’s 88.669 mph (set in March 1969), the new track record set by Cale Yarborough after the reconfiguration was almost 15 mph faster – 103.432 mph in July 1969. As a result of the resurfacing project in 2007, Bristol now lists its banking at 24- to 30-degrees
- Five drivers thus far have earned their first career Cup Series win at Bristol: Dale Earnhardt (1979), Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002). In 1988, superspeedway superstar Bill Elliott won his first-ever Cup Series short-track race at Bristol, while in 2010 Kyle Busch became the first driver in NASCAR to win three top national division events – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series – in one weekend.
- Bristol Motor Speedway hosts a number of NASCAR events each season: two Sprint Cup Series races, two Xfinity Series races, one Camping World Truck Series race, one K&N Pro Series East race and a combination race for the Whelen Modified and the Whelen Southern Modified Tours.
- Bristol is also the home to Bristol Dragway, better known as “Thunder Valley;” it hosts the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Thunder Valley Nationals each year.
- On Sept. 10, 2016, Bristol Motor Speedway will host the “Battle at Bristol, College Football’s Biggest EVER,” a non-conference NCAA football game between the University of Tennessee Vols and Virginia Tech Hokies. The game could draw 150,000 spectators, surpassing the current NCAA attendance record of 115,109. Bristol is located approximately 125 miles from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA and 110 from the UT campus in Knoxville, TN.
- Find out more about Bristol Motor Speedway at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com.