NASCAR: Why Bristol Motor Speedway is NASCAR's Most Distinctive Track

Sandra MacWattersCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2011

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 20:  A general view of the grandstands during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20, 2010 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Bristol Motor Speedway is the only NASCAR track that may be considered a coliseum, which is defined as a large oval stadium with tiers of seating; an arena in which contests and spectacles are held.

Indeed the racing facility, seating some 160,000 fans that rise straight up from the .533-mile concrete oval track, is a spectacle even when there is not a fan, car or driver in sight.

The tight racing on the variable-degree banked track has offered some of the most action-packed events seen on the the NASCAR circuit.

It has been 50 years since that first race on July 30, 1961, when 17-year-old Brenda Lee sang the national anthem in front of a grandstand capable of holding 18,000 fans.

From the beginning of the track's history, the fans became loyal to the track located in the heart of southern stock-car racing.

As the track expanded over the years, each event was a sellout until just the last few years when the economy took its toll.

Trying to get a ticket to a Bristol race was like panning for gold. It was not unusual for loyal fans to pass the treasured season tickets down to the next generation. 

The track is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Virginia/Tennessee state line. Bristol is a relatively small town surrounded by many other smaller towns.

Trying to find lodging for a race is nearly impossible without a considerable drive, perhaps to another state. As a result, the camping and recreational vehicle lifestyle has become an experience to behold at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Some people roll into the camping area a week or more before an event. Premium campsites are sold out for 2011 and yet the fans will flock to the adjacent areas in every imaginable type of vehicle that could be used for temporary residency during race weeks.

There is a loyalty by those who have witnessed NASCAR racing at the bowl in Thunder Valley. The sound is incredibly loud when the racing machines roar to life, but those in attendance love it.

There is no other track on the NASCAR circuit that offers the visual impact of the towering seats, the racing action, the sounds, smells and entertainment found at the racing venue called the "World's Fastest Half-Mile Track." 

When 43 cars take to the track at Bristol Motor Speedway, the slower qualifying cars near the back of the field start the race nearly half of a lap down, which makes the fight to get to the front an ingredient that often breeds chaos with crashing cars.

Unexpected pit stops for something like a cut tire can take a driver from hero to zero in a flash because it is so very hard to make up that time in the pits, which almost equates to a lap.

Space in the infield is tight to say the least. The pit stalls line the front stretch and the back stretch, which is unique to the sport. That can often become problematic, as cars enter the pit roads from two different locations.

During the August race in 2008 a Guinness World Record was set for the largest crowd wave in history. The next year the record was backed up while the August race was red-flagged.

The traditional night race in August at Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular NASCAR events on the Sprint Cup schedule.

Adrenaline runs high, just like the tempers of the drivers, during each and every race at the Bristol track. 

Any fan of NASCAR needs to put a trip to this track on their bucket list. 

Even those who normally would not attend a stock car race will witness a spectacle well worth the trip and just maybe find themselves becoming fans of NASCAR short-track racing.

It's Bristol baby!


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