14 Mar History of the Bristol Motor Speedway, The World’s Fastest Half Mile
The 5-hour ENERGY® Racing Team is packing their suitcases because it’s almost time for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway! We thought it would be fun to share a little history about this classic Tennessee race track nicknamed “The World’s Fastest Half Mile”.
Originally Bristol Motor Speedway was proposed to be built in Piney Flats, Tennessee, but this idea was opposed by locals so the track was built in Bristol instead. The ground the speedway currently sits on was formerly part of Gray’s Dairy; while it was operating it was one of the largest dairies in the eastern half of the US. Bristol Motor Speedway’s construction started in 1960 and took about one year to complete.
Tiny Lund was the first driver to practice on the new track on July 27, 1961. Jack Smith was the winner of Bristol Motor Speedway’s first race, the Volunteer 500, on July 30, 1961. Though Smith drove the first 290 laps, he turned his driving duties over to Johnny Allen due to the extreme heat blistering his feet. This race factored into decisions to improve race cars’ insulation and the decision to install power steering to help drivers better manage the heat of summer races.
In the spring of 1969, track owners Larry Carrier and Carl Moore decided to make a change to the track that would make the Bristol Motor Speedway one of the most distinctive race tracks in the country. Carrier and Moore had the track’s surface dug up and reshaped the banks, causing turns to be much steeper. The new turns were banked at 36 degrees, one of the highest in the country. This change in degrees caused the length of the track to increase.
In the spring of 1978, Bristol International Speedway became Bristol International Raceway, at a time when Michael Waltrip’s older brother Darrell was about to make history. On April 2, 1978, Darrell earned the first of his 12 career wins at Bristol. From March 29, 1981 through April 1, 1984, Darrell won seven Cup races at Bristol in a row, a record he still holds. Darrell also leads all NASCAR drivers in the number of wins at Bristol, with his 12th and final win at Bristol occurring on August 29, 1992.
In 1992, Bristol International Raceway updated their asphalt surfaces to the concrete surface it is now famous for. It continued to grow and by April 1997 was the largest sports arena in Tennessee and one of the largest in the country, seating 118,000 fans. Construction began in 2002 to demolish the speedway’s entire backstretch. The new backstretch increased the venue’s seating capacity to more than 160,000, making it the 4th largest US sports venue and 8th largest venue in the world.
Clint Bowyer, who will drive the 5-hour ENERGY® Toyota Camry this weekend, won his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol on March 15, 2008. Clint also finished third in the Food City 500 that weekend.
Bristol Motor Speedway aka Thunder Valley continues to be a race track on the top of racing fans must visit venues. Fans come from all over the country to experience the speedway’s beatin’ and bangin’ history, driver’s tempers exploding and the famous hauler parade. Can’t wait to see the 5-hour ENERGY® Racing Team take on the Bristol International Raceway and hopefully watch Clint race to another win at this legendary track!