From Tailgate To Trackside: NASCAR Buckles Up For Bristol, Baby!

Kara MartinSenior Analyst IAugust 20, 2009

"Don't give us none of your aggravation,

We had it with your discipline.

Saturday night's alright for fighting,

Get a little action in."

-Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting) Elton John

Oh yes, Saturday night’s alright for fighting and no better arena for the Sharpie 500, than Bristol Motor Speedway.

Driver patience is often as short as the track itself as the mighty 43 swap paint for 500 white-knuckled laps. Cramped quarters combined with the sheer horsepower of the cars has been likened to "flying fighter jets in a gymnasium."

Bristol knows how to brawl!

The idea for “world’s fastest half-mile” came to be in 1960 after track builders Larry Carrier and Carl Moore attended a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hoping to create a smaller version of CMS with a more intimate setting, the pair, along with R.G Pope sketched out plans for the Northeastern Tennessee track on the back of envelopes and brown paper bags.

Ground was broken on 100 acres of dairy farm in early 1960 and took approximately one year to complete.

Bristol International Speedway was a perfect half-mile, measuring 60 feet wide on the straightaways, 75 feet wide in the turns and the turns were banked at 22 degrees.

NASCAR held its first race at BMS on July 27, 1961 to a sold-out crowd of 18,000. Jack Smith won the inaugural “Volunteer 500” despite not being in the driver’s seat to take the checkered flag. Smith drove the first 290 laps while his relief driver, Johnny Allen took over to complete the remaining 210 laps. The two drivers shared the $3225 purse.

BMS has gone through many changes, identities and owners over the years. In 1969, it was reshaped and re-measured. The turns were banked at 36 degrees and it became a 0.533-mile oval.

In 1976 after the season ended, the track was sold to Lanny Hester and Gary Baker. The track was renamed Bristol International Raceway in 1978 and in August of that same year, the first night race was held. The hot August night race in Bristol quickly became one of the most anticipated and popular races on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series calendar.

Warner Hodgdon purchased BMS in 1983 and named former track builder Larry Carrier as its general manager. In 1985, Hodgdon filed for bankruptcy allowing Carrier to formally take possession of the speedway and cover all outstanding debts.

In the face of its popularity, Bristol was far from perfect. For 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 track was overhauled once again, abandoning its asphalt surface for the now famous concrete veneer.

Carrier sold the track to Speedway Motorsports, Inc in 1996 for $26 million dollars. Later that year, the name was changed once again to Bristol Motor Speedway and seating capacity grew to 86,000.

Today, BMS can hold more than 160,000 rabid race fans.

School's out and it's time to begin the beguine in Bristol!

While BMS owns several campgrounds surrounding the track, it does not offer the same kind of infield camping luxury that many of the other tracks do. As far as tailgating goes, you got to get a little creative!

The BMS properties generally sell out quickly, so if you are thinking about a Bristol getaway in 2010, get your reservations in now! 

These campgrounds offer reserved spaces for the entire NASCAR race season starting at $860 with electric, sewer and water hookups. Spaces without hook-ups start at $99 per race event.

Prices include unlimited use of the shower facility, dump stations and water. BMS shuttles will offer transportation to the shower house as well as the grandstands on event days.

There are several privately owned campgrounds near the speedway that cater to race fans that are worth looking into as well and of course race day parking is available on a first come, first serve basis.

Parking on BMS grounds is by permit only. BMS also operates two free parking areas on St. Rt. 394. "Speedway Parking" and "Multi-Purpose" parking areas offer free shuttle service to and from the track.

Allow plenty of travel time as the tiny town of Bristol will play host to over 650,000 vehicles during a typical race weekend.

What the fans be grillin?

Looking for authentic tasty Tennessee treats to tantalize your tailgating taste buds?

You can’t go wrong with grilling some barbequed ribs or fresh catfish, but if you want to do it up right southern style pack your Fry Daddy!

In spite of its negative health benefits, submerging food in hot oil is so wrong that it’s right! EVERYTHING tastes better fried!

Virtually anything can be deep fried, from the usual suspects (french fries, onion rings, corn dogs) to the deliciously unexpected (Twinkies, pickles, cheesecake).

Heck, someone even found a way to deep fry a Coca-Cola!

So fry it up baby! Breakfast, lunch and dinner never tasted so good! Justify a weekend of unhealthy living knowing that you will walk it off in the mountains of Bristol as you make your way along the steep inclines to the track.

Tennessee is home to the famous Jack Daniel’s distillery, so whiskey-a-go-go it up in style with some race day cocktails. Recipes can found at

Jack Daniel’s also offers a variety of paradise in a bottle with its Country Cocktails selections. You can’t go wrong with a Downhome Punch or a Black Jack Cola, just load up the cooler and you are good to go!

Jack Daniel’s, sponsor of Casey Mear’s No. 07 Chevrolet, promotes responsible drinking, so be sure to “Obey the caution flag and pace yourself!”

Looking to make your Bristol experience more eventful?

Check out Food City’s Family Race Night on Thursday, Aug. 20 for appearances from your favorite drivers and sponsors.

Get the VIP treatment all weekend long in the Amp Energy Club at BMS. Club members will be treated to great food, drinks, fun and exclusive benefits. For just $180 you’ll celebrate the race day atmosphere with a pre-race track tour and driver appearances.

Membership Includes: 

  • Entrance into Bristol Motor Speedway's exclusive Hospitality Village
  • Great meals with non-alcohol beverages (Cash bar available)
  • Exclusive "member's-only" gift pack with souvenir program
  • Track tour (Sprint Cup day only)
  • NASCAR driver appearances
  • Entertainment, door prizes & music
  • Access to NASCAR driver Q & A session:
  • Friday, August 21 -Bobby Allison (4:00 p.m.)
  • Saturday, August 22 - Rusty Wallace (3:00 p.m.), Matt Kenseth - (3:30 p.m.). Kasey Kahne - (4:10 p.m), Dale Earnhardt Jr. - (4:30 p.m.), Junior Johnson - (5:00 p.m.)

Information about these events, camping, parking and more can be found at

So races fans, let’s buckle up, it's Bristol baby and Saturday night’s the night we like, Saturday night’s alright! See you next weekend when we get Amp-ed up in Atlanta!





    LeBron Delivers Heroic 46-11-9 in Game 6

    Featured logo

    LeBron Delivers Heroic 46-11-9 in Game 6

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    One Draft Mistake Every NBA Team Must Avoid

    Featured logo

    One Draft Mistake Every NBA Team Must Avoid

    Jonathan Wasserman
    via Bleacher Report

    LeBron Talks Legacy of Being Clutch

    Featured logo

    LeBron Talks Legacy of Being Clutch

    Kyle Newport
    via Bleacher Report

    Ranking Every Team's QB Situation in 2018

    Featured logo

    Ranking Every Team's QB Situation in 2018

    Zach Kruse
    via Bleacher Report