That's History! NASCAR's Checkered (flag) Past, One Story at a Time · Amy Henderson · Monday August 21, 2006
The great thing about useless information is that it's also interesting, and over the course of Bristol Motor Speedway's long history, there has been a lot of useless information accumulated. In fact, you could say that some of it even predates the half-mile bullring.
For example, the racetrack is in Bristol, Tennessee…but it isn't far from Bristol, Virginia. The thing is, those two places are, in fact, the same town; the state line between Virginia and Tennessee runs down Main Street. And that's just the beginning of Bristol's interesting past. Did you know that two drivers won the first race at BMS, and it was not a tie? There are plenty of water-cooler worthy tidbits to be found here, whatever side of Main Street you’re on. For example:
- BMS wasn't even supposed to be in Bristol. The original plan of track builders Carl Moore and Larry Carrier was to build their speedway up the road in Piney Flats. Problem was, the locals weren't too keen on the idea. So Moore and Carrier took their plan five miles down the road, finally settling on a former dairy farm in Bristol to build what would become one of NASCAR’s most legendary tracks.
- Moore and Carrier had originally envisioned a track similar to the then brand new Charlotte (now Lowe's) Motor Speedway. However, the two decided that a smaller, half-mile track would provide fans with a more intimate and exciting experience. BMS took about a year to complete once the plans were finalized.
- Bristol is the highest banked track in NASCAR's top three series at 36 degrees in the corners. Not even Daytona (31 degrees) or Talladega (33 degrees) boast corners as steep as BMS.
- Ryan Newman's Nextel Cup team would disagree with the previous information. The team measured the track's surface and angles recently during a test session to determine a baseline setup, and they contend that the banking is a slightly tamer 26 degrees. The official measurements remain at 36, though.
- 42 cars started the first NASCAR Grand National (now Nextel Cup Series) race at Bristol in 1961; only nineteen of them finished.
- Country singer Brenda Lee, then just seventeen, sang the National Anthem to open that first race day.
- Over the years, drivers have compared racing at Bristol to racing in a gymnasium, a washing machine, a toilet, and a blender. No word on how they know.
- Although Jack Smith is the first official Cup winner at Bristol, Johnny Allen crossed the finish line first. Huh?! Allen finished (and won) the race in relief of Smith, who wasn't feeling well and turned the car over to Allen on lap 290. NASCAR rules state that the driver who takes the green flag to start the race gets credit for the finishing position. Hence, Allen took the checkered flag, but Smith got the trophy.
Those are just a few of the stories generated by the little bullring in Tennessee known as “The World's Fastest Half-Mile.” (Want more? Tune in Friday for Race Trax!) If someone at the water cooler looks at you funny, wrinkles their eyebrow, and asks, “Dude, how the heck do you know all this useless (fill in the word of your choice)?” All you have to do is say, "That's History!"
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