Bristol Bandits: All-Time Best NASCAR Drivers To Steal Wins at Bristol
Die-hard race fans have one race they must attend, the night race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series at Bristol Motor Speedway.
This coming weekend is the Irwin Tools night race at the "World's Fastest Half-Mile."
Drivers have always found the oval, bowl-shaped track challenging with corner banking of 24 to 30 degrees and 650 foot straightaways that have six to 10 degrees of banking
The track was built in 1960 and the first race was held July 30, 1961, with a seating capacity of 18,000.
Proving how tough the track was, 42 cars started the first race, but only 19 finished.
Though the track can now seat 160,000 plus fans, the racing has not changed much over the years. Banging sheet metal and crashed cars were a part of all the races except in 1971 when a race was run caution free.
Some of the greats of NASCAR were exceptionally good at Bristol Motor Speedway. For some drivers it was a favorite track on the circuit, but others dreaded their trip to the half mile track.
Let's take a look at NASCAR's Cup drivers who have proven to be the best at Bristol through the last 50 years.
Darrell Waltrip Became Boring at Bristol
Darrell Waltrip, the three-time NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion holds the record for the most wins with 12 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Waltrip had 84 wins in NASCAR's top tier of racing with 59 pole positions, 35 of which were on short tracks which is a record.
The Kentucky born driver ran 809 Cup races over a 29 year period, retiring in 2000.
Currently Waltrip resides in Franklin, Tenn. and is often seen as a television commentator for NASCAR racing.
Winning years at Bristol: 1978, 1979, 1981 (2), 1982 (2), 1983 (2), 1984, 1986, 1989, 1992
Cale Yarborough Was Always Tough To Beat
Cale Yarborough is a South Carolina native who captured three Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) titles in 1976, 1977 and 1978.
Yarborough had 83 wins in the 560 races he ran over 31 years. He was the first NASCAR driver to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The tough southerner liked racing at Bristol, where he secured nine wins against some of the sport's best drivers.
Yarborough drove for the Wood Brothers and Junior Johnson among others and retired when he was a driver/owner in 1998 piloting the Hardee's No. 29 Oldsmobile. He co-drove the car with Dale Jarrett, who took over the ride full-time.
In 2000 Yarborough sold the team after having many drivers and sponsors.
Currently he is a businessman and takes care of his plantation in South Carolina.
Winning years at Bristol: 1973, 1974 (2), 1976 (2), 1977 (2), 1978, 1980
Rusty Wallace Could Go Airborne In A Car Too!
Rusty Wallace is one of three drivers including Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt Sr. to have secured nine wins at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Wallace was the 1989 NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion. He had 55 wins out of the 706 races he ran.
Wallace is a pilot, but he has found himself airborne in several spectacular NASCAR crashes. One such crash, oddly, was at Bristol Motor Speedway where his car flipped and went into a barrel roll.
Wallace was most recognized as driver of the Penske Miller Draft No. 2 car which became the Miller Lite Blue Deuce.
Currently he operates Rusty Wallace Racing fielding two NASCAR Nationwide teams. He can also be seen as a television commentator for NASCAR racing.
Winning years at Bristol: 1986, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000 (2)
Dale Earnhardt Sr., "The Intimidator"
Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the third driver to win nine races at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion won 76 times in the 677 races he ran over 27 years.
Earnhardt began racing in NASCAR's top-tier of racing in 1975. He is best known as driver of the "Wrangler" car and the famous black "Goodwrench" No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing.
Sadly we lost the Champion too soon in a crash at Daytona in 2001.
Winning years at Bristol: 1979, 1980, 1985 (2), 1987 (2), 1988, 1994, 1999
David Pearson Showed Up To Win
David Pearson is one of three drivers to win at Bristol Motor Speedway five times.
Pearson is also a three-time NASCAR Grand National (Sprint Cup) champion and 1960 NASCAR Rookie of the Year.
The statistics for the South Carolina native show 105 wins in the Cup series with 113 poles.
Pearson was a tough competitor against Richard Petty with the two drivers having finished first/second 63 times.
The famous Wood Brothers No. 21 Purolator Mercury was the most recognized car Pearson drove.
Winning years at Bristol: 1967, 1968 (2), 1969, 1971
Jeff Gordon Seeks Fifth NASCAR Title First
Jeff Gordon is another driver with five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway along with David Pearson and Kurt Busch.
The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion is the driver of the famous No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and is trying to attain a fifth championship title before teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon has 82 wins and 68 poles in the Cup series since his first race in the series during 1992.
Winning years at Bristol: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002
Kurt Busch, The Las Vegas Native Rolled The Dice in NASCAR
Kurt Busch is the third of the three drivers to win five times at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch began racing in the Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) series in 2000 driving a Roush prepared car.
His performance didn't really take off until the Spring Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2002 when he won the race.
Busch asked to be released from Roush Racing in late 2005 and after refusing the request initially, Roush did release his driver.
In 2006 Busch joined Penske Racing. That same year he won his fifth race at Bristol and celebrated the win by getting out of his car and making a snow angel in snow that had fallen that weekend.
In 2011, Busch will surrender his ride in the Penske Blue Deuce to Brad Keselowski and assume driving duties behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge.
Winning years at Bristol: 2002, 2003 (2), 2004, 2006
Bobby Allison, Driver From The Old School
Bobby Allison was the 1983 Winston Cup (Sprint Cup) champion. His official record shows 84 wins in the Cup series out of 718 races in 25 years.
Allison won four races at Bristol Motor Speedway. He was also a three-time winner of the Daytona 500. The 1988 win was a one-two finish with his son Davey.
Allison was involved in a horrendous crash at Talladega in 1987 when his car went airborne at 200 mph tearing down nearly 300 feet of fencing and injuring spectators.
In 1988, Allison was nearly killed in a crash at Pocono Raceway which forced his retirement.
His son Clifford was killed during practice at Michigan International Speedway in 1992. His son Davey was killed in a helicopter accident at Talladega in 1993.
Allison was extremely popular with NASCAR fans.
Winning years at Bristol: 1969, 1970, 1972 (2)
Kyle Busch, The Other Busch Brother
Kyle Busch is the modern era three-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway. Fred Lorenzen had three wins there with one in 1963 and two in 1964. Richard Petty had three wins as well with one in 1967 and two in 1975.
This Busch brother races the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The talented driver has been a winner not only in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, but also in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series.
He currently holds the record for most wins in one season for all three series with 21 wins.
Busch was the first driver to win with NASCAR's COT in the 2007 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Winning years at Bristol: 2007, 2009 (2)
Charlie Glotzbach, Bristol Record Holder
"Chargin" Charlie Glotzbach was the 1969 ARCA Rookie of the Year and ran his first NASCAR Cup race in 1960, then was absent from the series from 1961 to 1967. He returned part-time running the most races, 22 out of 48 in 1968.
He was a tough competitor for the great NASCAR racers of that era, driving 124 races and finished in the top 10 in 50 of those races. Glotzbach had four wins in the Cup series.
Perhaps his favorite win was in 1971 at the Volunteer 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway when there were no caution flags during the 500 laps.
"Chargin" Charlie set an average speed record of 101.074 mph, a record yet to be broken.
Though cars are faster now, in comparison, Kyle Busch ran 92.139 which is the fastest average speed of a car this decade at Bristol.
Glotzbach had four starts at Bristol. The 1971 win was his fourth and final in the Cup series, though he race part-time until 1992.