Bristol Motor Speedway - The Theater of Speed

August 16, 2016
Alexander S

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One of the shortest and definitely most popular racing ovals in the United States is Bristol Motor Speedway. This venue has a long history and absolutely deserves its nickname, the Theater of Speed.

Short track, huge stands

Bristol Motor Speedway is located in Bristol, Tennessee, and was built in 1960, in the era when NASCAR started becoming more and more popular across the country. With a length of only half a mile, Bristol Motor Speedway is quite a short track, but its huge stands with a capacity of almost 160.000 people is what makes this venue the fourth biggest sports venue in the US.

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR night race

NASCAR night race at Bristol Motor Speedway

The venue was opened in 1961, and instantly became one of the most popular among both drivers and fans. Nevertheless, Bristol Motor Speedway is the object of hatred for those who are more familiar with huge superspeedways. However, this is a really unique racing venue with a completely concrete surface, and you cannot compare any other venue with this one. In such circumstances, it is not a surprise that the races at Bristol Motor Speedway are the ones with most yellow flags.

Except his driving skills and a well-prepared car, every driver needs a big amount of luck if he wants to win at Bristol. This is one of the very few tracks in which a driver can still win if he is few laps short but every unscheduled pit stop under green flag can be the decisive factor to drop the car out of contention for the victory.

Bristol Motor Speedway first race 1961, black and white

First race was held in 1961

Popular steep banking is one of the trademarks

One of the things that are making this short and probably the loudest NASCAR venue so specific is a very steep banking of 26-30 degrees in turns and 6-10 degrees at straights which was made after the last resurfacing in 2007 when the track was also widened to 4.3m. Originally, banking wasn’t as steep, but after the first development of the track in 1969, it was even bigger and went up to 36 degrees.

Bristol Motor Speedway steep race banking NASCAR racing

Steep banking at Bristol Motor Speedway

How to pit at Bristol Motor Speedway

Another thing that could be seen only at Bristol Motor Speedway is an unusual pit road. Lack of space prevented the construction of the garages, so specific rules were introduced in 2002 in order to eliminate some disadvantages. During the caution, drivers who want to pit must enter in turn 2, drive all the way down the backstretch through the apron of turns 3 and 4 and down the front stretch, exiting pit road in turn 1. Under green flag, cars with pit stalls on the backstretch enter the pits in turn 2 and exit in turn 3. Those with pits on the front stretch enter in turn 4 and exit in turn 1.

Besides the famous oval track, Bristol Motor Speedway also has a temporary dirt oval with a length of 0.533 miles. The banking on the turns of this track is 22-24 degrees while on the straights the banking is 9 degrees. Lap record time (0.13:86s) on this track is set by Sammy Swindell during the 2000 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series event.

Bristol Motor Speedway panorama

Pit road at Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR races are always well attended

NASCAR races quickly became the most important events at Bristol and the races there were quickly established as one of the most prestigious in the series. Since the beginning, the crowd was huge and even the Xfinity Series race could attract more than 100.000 spectators. One more thing that makes Bristol Motor Speedway so unique is the fact that it hosts the only midweek race of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in conjunction with some lower NASCAR divisions.

Since its opening in 1961, two NASCAR Cup races are regular at Bristol Motor Speedway every year – the Food City 500 and Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Xfinity Series race was held for the first time in 1982, while the Truck Series in northern Tennessee arrived in 1995. The Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship race was also held once, while many other minor racing and motorsports events were held or are still holding their meetings at Bristol.

Bristol Motor Speedway race atmosphere, Tennessee 2016 nascar racing

Great atmosphere at the Speedway

Lap around the track in less than 15 seconds

Lap record time of 0:12.742s was set in 2011 by Brian Gerster during Must See Racing X-treme Speed Classic event. When it comes to 2016, Darrell Waltrip is the most successful NASCAR driver at the Speedway with 12 wins while Richard Petty has most starts (60) and most Top 5 finishes (26).

Bristol Motor Speedway map/track layout

Map: Bristol Motor Speedway track layout

New owner brought many new things

Since 1996, Bruton Smith Speedway Motorsports Inc. is the owner of the venue. Ever since then, Bristol Motor Speedway has become bigger and bigger, but it was also modernized to meet all the demands of the fans, drivers, and teams. The track infield was also paved, allowing teams’ trucks to park there in a very tight space which requires a lot of skills from the truck drivers. Additional improvements included a scoring pylon with a huge four-sided video screen called Colossus, similar to those in sports arenas hanging from their ceilings. The last resurface of the track was done in 2012.

NASCAR Motor Speedway infield, Tennessee

Very tight space at Bristol Motor Speedway’s infield

Fancy a football game at the racing oval?

Many people like to say that the Tennessee Speedway is similar to some football stadiums and the closest equivalent to an ancient Roman gladiator arena. The venue was the host of American football matches (notably Battle of Bristol), and it was also an inspiration and a filming location of various movies like Days of Thunder and Cars, as well as a host of many concerts and charity events, most notably the ’Speedway in Lights’.

American football game at Bristol Motor Speedway, 2016

Bristol Motor Speedway prepared for the American football game

Getting to Bristol Motor Speedway and accommodation

The nearest international airport is in Charlotte, around 240 km from Bristol, but local Tri-Cities Regional Airport at Blountville, located only 20km from the Bristol Motor Speedway, offers many national flights. Road infrastructure is excellent but it is good to know that on the racing days of major events, traffic jams are a common occurrence and you’ll probably need an advice from the locals on how to avoid scrimmage.

Various types of accommodation could easily be found in the city and its surroundings. Bristol Motor Speedway owns and manages five campgrounds located on the track property and also offers accommodation in the luxurious motor homes.

Packed camping site at Motor Speedway 2016

One of the camping sites at Bristol Motor Speedway

Address: 151 Speedway Boulevard, Bristol, TN 37620, United States
Phone: +1 423 989 6933

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