Bristol: 2000th Winston Cup race preview

Electric atmosphere expected at half-mile stadium setting for 2000th NASCAR Winston Cup race. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 19, 2003) -- Bristol Motor Speedway has been spiffed up, just in time for the 2000th race in NASCAR Winston Cup Series ...

Electric atmosphere expected at half-mile stadium setting for 2000th NASCAR Winston Cup race.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 19, 2003) -- Bristol Motor Speedway has been spiffed up, just in time for the 2000th race in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history, Sunday's Food City 500.

Sunday's race will be Bristol's 85th as far as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series is concerned. The milestone event will be watched live by a crowd of approximately 160,000, an increase of approximately 13,000 via completion of the track's latest expansion project. Over the last seven months, the new Dale Earnhardt Terrace was built, along with three new grandstands (named Petty, Yarborough and Johnson) and 52 new suites.

Thus, Bristol's half-mile of high banks will have added excitement, as drivers negotiate the first short-track race of the season. The stadium setting is an imposing challenge, especially for some of the series' younger drivers.

"I remember the first time I ran there I was completely in awe of the place," said Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Havoline Dodge). "With each time that I come back to Bristol I get more comfortable with it. Bristol's definitely one of those tracks that keeps you on your toes each lap because things happen so fast there. If you can avoid the wrecks and be around at the end, you'll get a good finish.

"I love coming to Bristol because it's just amazing how many people come to watch us race there. It's definitely a driver and fan race track."

Bristol has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity over the last decade, coinciding with NASCAR's overall growth as a mainstream sport with nationwide appeal. The track has two of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' six short-track events -- Martinsville Speedway and Richmond International Raceway have the other four.

Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) comes as the defending champion of the Food City 500. Last year's victory was his first in NASCAR Winston Cup. He returns not only as the defender, but as a contender -- for the series championship. Busch added three more victories in 2002 after his Bristol breakthrough. He's sixth in the NASCAR Top 10, coming into this week's event.

Busch comes off a second-place finish last Sunday at Darlington Raceway -- his third runner-up effort in five races this season. He finished a scant .002-second behind Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Pontiac).

"I've got to give congratulations to my team and all the effort that we've put forth [this year]," Busch said. "We're just missing one little input. If we can get all the inputs in the right place, we can win some races."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven , Jamie McMurray