Golden’ Rule: History Continues At Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway, one the more storied tracks on the NASCAR schedule, celebrates its 50th anniversary this season – and the history it has built is staggering.
The wins list alone features some of the most iconic names in the sport’s history. Eight of the top nine are series champions, and five of those are either NASCAR Hall of Famers, inductees or nominees. The top nine: Darrell Waltrip (12), Dale Earnhardt (9), Rusty Wallace (9), Cale Yarborough (9), Kurt Busch (5), Jeff Gordon (5), David Pearson (5), Bobby Allison (4) and Kyle Busch (4).
Here’s a quick ‘By the Numbers’ look at Bristol since its first Cup race in 1961, won by Jack Smith.
.064 – In seconds, the closest margin of victory at Bristol since the inception of electronic scoring in 1993. On March 25, 2007, in the first race with the new car, Kyle Busch edged Jeff Burton to the finish line by that miniscule figure. Each of the last four races at Bristol has had a margin of victory under one second.
9 – Bristol poles by Mark Martin and Cale Yarborough, most all-time there. Martin would reach career milestone 50 poles if he wins the pole this weekend.
16 – Different leaders at Bristol on April 9, 1989. Won by Rusty Wallace, 16 of the 32-car field – half the competitors – led at least one lap.
40 – Lead changes at Bristol on April 14, 1991, the most ever at Bristol. Starting from the pole, Rusty Wallace won that event. Eight different drivers exchanged the top spot, with Ricky Rudd leading the most laps (145).
50 – Career win number of Jimmie Johnson when he won his first Bristol race, March 21, 2010. It was also the site of Rusty Wallace’s 50th win, on March 26, 2000.
500 – Laps led by Cale Yarborough on March 25, 1973. It was the only time a driver led every single lap at Bristol. Yarborough won the race by two laps over runner-up Richard Petty.
Back At Home: 500 Champ Bayne Returns To Native Tennessee
Expect the cheers from the fans to be extra loud this weekend when Trevor Bayne is introduced during driver introductions. It will be his first time competing in front of his hometown fans after capturing the checkered flag at this season’s Daytona 500. He’ll pull double duty – again – running both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Bristol, about a two-hour drive from Bayne’s native Knoxville.
There are a few intertwined storylines with Bayne’s homecoming, involving two teams, and two series.
• For the fourth time this season, Bayne will pilot the iconic No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers. This is the 10-year anniversary of the Wood Brothers NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bristol win in 2001. It was the historic team’s last win – until this season’s Daytona 500. In that race, Elliott Sadler led 70 laps, beating John Andretti in the iconic No. 43 to the finish line by .426 seconds.
• Since Bayne’s 500 victory, he has finished 40th at Phoenix and 20th at Las Vegas.
• Bayne is sixth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver standings, 24 points behind Reed Sorenson. In the first three starts of the season he has posted one top five and two top 10s. Bayne has made four starts at Bristol, posting one top-10 finish. His pre-race Driver Rating at Bristol is 72.9.
• Also watch for NASCAR Nationwide Series Roush Fenway Racing teammate and 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is second in the standings, two points back from series standings leader Reed Sorenson. Stenhouse has posted three top 10s in his first three starts this season. His season-to-date Driver Rating of 102.7 is up 42.0 points over last season’s 60.7 after the first three races – the largest improvement in the series. Stenhouse has made two starts at Bristol, posting a best finish of 22nd, last fall.
Surprising Figures Among Drivers Battling To Beat ‘The Bubble’
Several top names – including a pair of drivers who qualified for last year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – are in danger of losing a guaranteed top 35 starting position with two races remaining before 2011 owner points come into play. After race No. 5 at Auto Club Speedway, the top 35 cars in the current owner points will earn guaranteed starting spots to the following race. For the first five races, the 2010 owner points are used.
Chasers Greg Biffle (33rd) and Jeff Burton (34th) are among the endangered, only 13 points to the good over the No. 71 Chevrolet driven by Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Andy Lally in 36th. Sitting directly on the bubble is Casey Mears, whose Germain Racing team occupies 35th. Regan Smith’s No. 78 Chevrolet (30th), Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet (31st) and Joey Logano’s No. 20 Toyota (32nd) aren’t safe by any stretch, 16 points ahead of the cutoff.
• Burton is the only “bubble” driver with a Bristol win.
• Biffle counts top-10 finishes in his three most recent Bristol starts. McMurray was a top-10 finisher in both 2010 Bristol races. Logano has a single top-10 run in his four starts at the track.
• Lally and Tony Raines currently hold top 35 qualifying status but are eight and 11 points, respectively, behind Mears. Lally will be making his first Bristol appearance. Raines has yet to finish higher than 17th with an average Bristol finish of 29.4. As for Mears, his sole top 10 came in the spring of 2005.
Former Bristol Motor Speedway President Jeff Byrd, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer, will be honored for his contribution to NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. Byrd’s wife Claudia and children Christian and Belton are the honorary starters. …Last season, Kyle Busch became the first driver to sweep all three NASCAR national series races in the same weekend when swept Bristol last fall. Click here to listen to Busch talk about racing at Bristol. … Several fan friendly events are scheduled for Friday, March 18. Admission is free of charge. On tap: Food City will honor Richard Petty during on-stage ceremonies; a special Q&A session with Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Brian Vickers, A.J. Allmendinger and David Ragan; a Wii Boxing Tournament featuring Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann, Clint Bowyer, Trevor Bayne and Bobby Labonte; and a Newlywed Game with Kasey Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis versus Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe. … Milestones this week: David Ragan and Travis Kvapil will be making their 150th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts; Tony Stewart is going for his 40th win and 250th top-10 finish. If he succeeds he will be the 19th NASCAR Sprint Cup driver to reach 250 top 10s. Kasey Kahne is going for his 50th top five in the series.
Turner Motorsports Loads Up For Bristol
For the past three seasons Joe Gibbs Racing has had a firm grip on the owner standings, but this season Turner Motorsports sits 1-2 in the owner standings, with Gibbs just 16 points back in third. Turner continues to ride momentum from its first series win, by series wins leader Mark Martin at Las Vegas.
Coming back from the off-week with an all-star cast of talent, picking a clear favorite at Bristol is difficult with the Turner Motorsports line-up. Three of Turner Motorsports full-time drivers are in the top five in the driver standings, including standings leader Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler (third) and the defending Bristol race winner Justin Allgaier (fifth). The team also loaded its roster this weekend by adding Kasey Kahne, fresh off his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Darlington, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver James Buescher.
• Reed Sorenson is the driver standings leader, two points ahead of second-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. In three starts this season Sorenson has posted two top fives. He has made nine career series starts at Bristol, posting one top five and three top 10s. His pre-race Driver Rating is 81.1. He is back in the No. 32 car this week, which is also leading the owner standings.
• Jason Leffler is third in the driver standings, five points behind Sorenson. He has posted two top 10s in three starts this season. He has made 15 starts at Bristol posting three top fives, seven top 10s and a pole. His Driver Rating at Bristol is 94.9.
• Justin Allgaier is fifth in the driver standings, 16 points behind Sorenson, in three starts this season he has posted one top five and two top 10s. Allgaier became the only series-regular to post a victory last season when he grabbed his first career series win at Bristol. He has made four starts at Bristol, posting the win and two top fives. His Driver Rating is 98.3.
• Kasey Kahne is not competing for the series driver standings championship but is contributing to the No. 38 team’s prospects at an owner championship, as they sit seventh. Kahne has made 13 series starts at Bristol posting one win (2007) and three top fives, with a Driver Rating of 92.7.
• James Buescher will be attempting to make his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series start for Turner Motorsports this weekend. Buescher has elected to compete for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver standings championship this season. He has made one series start at Bristol, last season for James Finch, where he started 36th and drove to a 12th-place finish.
Marquee Names Hit High Banks of Bristol
Previous champions and fresh faces pack the field this weekend at Bristol.
Danica Patrick leads the JR Motorsports contingent, making her fourth start in her limited schedule in the NASCAR Nationwide Series before heading full-time to the IndyCar Series. Patrick will return to NASCAR competition June 4 at Chicagoland Speedway. This will be her first time competing at Bristol.
• Patrick is fourth in the driver standings, coming off her series career best finish (fourth) at Las Vegas. Her season-to-date Driver Rating of 83.7 nearly doubles her rating of 43.1 after the first three races last season.
• Aric Almirola is seventh in the driver standings, 26 points behind Sorenson. In the first three races of the season, he has posted two top-15 finishes. He has made three series starts at Bristol, posting one top-10 finish.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be making his second series start of the season at Bristol this weekend. He has nine starts at Bristol, posting one win (2004), five top fives, seven top 10s and two poles. Two-time series champion Kevin Harvick returns to the series, with Kevin Harvick Inc. teammate Elliott Sadler.
• Harvick is the all-time series wins leader at Bristol (five). In 20 Bristol starts, he has the five wins (2000, ’01, ’03, ’05, ’09), 13 top fives and 16 top 10s.
• Elliott Sadler is currently 12th in the driver standings, 41 points behind Sorenson. Sadler has had a slow start, but could rebound this weekend with a good finish. Sadler has made eight starts at Bristol, posting a win (1998), two top fives and a pole.
NNS Etc. – Bristol Motor Speedway
Four different manufacturers have won the last four races at Bristol. All but Ford have a win in the series’ new car through its first seven races (Chevrolet-4, Dodge-2, Toyota-1). Ford’s last win at Bristol was by David Ragan in the 2009 fall race. Its best new car finish was second by Carl Edwards – last August at Michigan and at Phoenix this season. … The last three series races to end under green at Bristol had a margin of victory less than one second. … Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update: Ryan Truex leads with 22 points after the first three races. He has a four-point lead over second-place Timmy Hill. Truex will be celebrating his 19th birthday this Friday, Mar. 18. .. Kenny Wallace countdown to 500 continues – a start at Bristol will be his 492nd, leaving him eight starts shy of becoming the second driver to reach 500 career starts. … Eric McClure will race at Bristol with a cast on his right hand after suffering a fracture last week in his home. McClure, from Chilhowie, Va., has been medically cleared to race. He posted on his Facebook page that he incurred the injury while trying to catch himself after stumbling over some party supplies that were being readied for daughter Mabreigh’s birthday. Jeff Green, the 2000 series champion, will be on stand-by as a substitute driver for McClure if needed.
Buescher Buries Phoenix Disappointment With Solid Darlington Finish
James Buescher was down, but assuredly is not out, following his fifth-place finish in last Saturday’s race at Darlington Raceway. Buescher’s failure to qualify at Phoenix International Raceway lit a fire under the 20-year-old Texan, who went to last weekend’s third of 25 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races with more than a little to prove. And prove it he did.
• As at Daytona International Speedway, Buescher put his truck at the head of the field, leading six laps. He’s now led 61 laps over his two starts.
• Buescher’s Darlington finish enabled him to gain 13 spots in the championship standings. He stands 11th, 44 points behind leader Matt Crafton.
• Rebounding is nothing new for Buescher, who wasn’t slated to run the full schedule in 2010. He spotted his rivals three early races then came within 37 points of cracking the top 10 on the strength of six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.
Buescher, who turns 21 a week before the April 2 Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, is on the cusp of claiming his first NASCAR Camping World Truck victory, having finished second twice, including a heart-breaking, quarter-second loss to Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota), who made the winning pass on the final restart last fall at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Whitt Bests Illustrious Company With Flashy Rookie Start
Cole Whitt has gone where no Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender has gone before.
The Californian ranks second in the championship standings following Darlington Raceway’s Too Tough To Tame 200 – the highest ever by a freshman after the season’s first three races. The previous best ranking was third by five rookies including current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors Kurt Busch and David Reutimann.
The 19-year-old Whitt certainly has turned heads in just four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series appearances capped by a pole position performance and eighth-place finish at Darlington. Whitt headed the field twice, marking the first laps he’s led in the series.
Whitt was the only rookie to record a top-10 finish at Darlington, backing up a run of sixth at Phoenix International Raceway.
• “As a person, he’s just a racer,” says Turn One Racing owner Stacy Compton. “That’s what I really like about him. He just wants to eat, sleep, and breathe racing. It translates on the race track. He doesn’t worry about the trivial things. It’s ‘what can we do to go faster?’” The 2008 U.S. Auto Club national midget champion isn’t the only competitor who continues to exceed pre-season expectations. Clay Rogers remains among the top five in the points standings. Rogers and his lightly sponsored team ranked first after the Daytona season opener and currently hold third. Max Papis is ninth following his third consecutive lead lap finish. Jeffrey Earnhardt is the second rookie to rank among the top 10 in the No. 10 position.
Forget Champions’ Slow Start Because Here They Come
After slow starts, it looks like runner-up finisher at Darlington Ron Hornaday Jr. and third-place Todd Bodine have rebounded.
• For Hornaday, the series’ only four-time champion, the finish was his second consecutive top five. He placed third at Phoenix.
• Bodine, stung by a pair of season-opening finishes outside the top 10, posted his best run since last fall at Martinsville, six races ago.
• Both beat points leader Crafton, who finished fourth. Hornaday moved from 10th to fifth in the standings; defending champion Bodine from 12th to seventh.
Turner Motorsports has signed Exide Technologies as primary sponsor for 10 races. James Buescher will carry the company’s colors in eight events; Mark Martin in two at Michigan and Pocono. Buescher is entered in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts EZ Seed 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. … Mike Skinner and his wife Angie will present their Fifth Annual Toyota Skinner Roundup in Daytona Beach March 16-17 at Daytona International Speedway and Spruce Creek Country Club. The event has raised more the $500,000 for various Volusia County charities. … Ron Hornaday Jr.’s 193rd top-10 finish eclipsed the record he shared with Jack Sprague. He needs three more top fives to break Sprague’s mark of 135. … Timothy Peters is the only driver after three races to rank among the top three in 2010 and 2011. Peters was first a year ago and currently is third.