Milestone Marker: 47 years at Bristol

60 Years Of NASCAR Has Included 47 Years Of Bristol Action Bristol Motor Speedway On The Schedule Since 1961 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 13, 2008) -- Bristol Motor Speedway, now a modern-day stock car coliseum, had modest beginnings, much like...

60 Years Of NASCAR Has Included 47 Years Of Bristol Action
Bristol Motor Speedway On The Schedule Since 1961

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 13, 2008) -- Bristol Motor Speedway, now a modern-day stock car coliseum, had modest beginnings, much like NASCAR itself. Through the years, the half-mile track has grown in size and stature, a development mirrored by the growth of stock car racing overall.

There have been 60 NASCAR seasons, 47 of which have included stops at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. The relationship and benefits have been reciprocal. Undoubtedly, NASCAR's history has been enriched by BMS' short-tracks slugfests.

More than 160,000 fans will be stacked into the .533-mile oval on Sunday for the Food City 500, the fifth race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. On Aug. 23, all of those seats again will be filled for the Sharpie 500, a Saturday night flashbulb-popping spectacle.

It was a different scene on the afternoon of July 30, 1961, as 18,000 watched Jack Smith win the first race for NASCAR's premier series at BMS, the Volunteer 500, with relief-driving help from Johnny Allen. Fred Lorenzen was on the pole that day -- and Bristol Motor Speedway was on the map.

And so the evolution began:

Originally a half-mile, the oval was reconfigured into its present .533, with banking made steeper.

In August 1978 the first night race was held on the oval.

In January 1996, Speedway Motorsports Incorporated CEO Bruton Smith brought BMS from Larry Carrier. At that time, grandstand capacity had grown to 71,000. Smith of course envisioned bigger and better things to come. In time for that season's night race, 15,000 more seats were added.

Capacity went to 118,000 in 1997, 131,000 in 1998, 147,000 in 2000, approximately 160,000 in 2003.

In March 2007, Bristol hosted the first race for the "new car" in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with Kyle Busch winning.

In August 2007, Bristol and its challenging banks (24-30 degrees in the turns) unveiled a newly repaved concrete surface.

History has been made routinely through the years. Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough, both three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champions, hold the top two all-time driver records at Bristol -- Waltrip has the most wins (12), Yarborough the most poles (9).

Junior Johnson, the man who personifies history, holds the mark for most car owner victories -- 21.

Waltrip won seven races in a row at Bristol from 1981-84. Yarborough took four straight and five of six between '76-78. More recently, Kurt Busch took three consecutive in 2003-04.

History is on tap again for Sunday. Another great past champion, Dale Jarrett, will make his final start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Jarrett, the series titlist in 1999, has won at Bristol, taking the 1997 night race. His father, two-time series champion Ned Jarrett, will wave the green flag Sunday as the honorary starter.

"There is no better place [to finish] than Bristol because it's the most special motorsports venue in the world as far as I'm concerned," Dale Jarrett said this week. "I hopefully can go out on a good note on Sunday."

-credit: nascar

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