Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A few Bristol Notes

Historically, Bristol has been one of the most exciting tracks to see a race. The fall race last year, after being resurfaced, may have been one of the more disappointing races in recent memory there, but even not so good racing at Bristol is still pretty darn good racing.

Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch each have 5 wins at Bristol. This track has always seemed to suit certain drivers' driving styles more than others. Mark Martin and his old teammate Matt Kenseth have each one at Bristol 2 times. Quite a few drivers have won at Thunder Valley 1 time, including Elliot Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Dale Jarrett. Bill Elliot has also won a race here.

This being Dale Jarrett's last race, I imagine this is as good a place to end one's career as any. I'll be writing more about Dale later this week.

Of all active drivers, Jeff Gordon easily leads in average starting position, at an incredible 5.5th place start out of 30 total races run. Greg Biffle actually has the best finishing average, with 10.3rd place average of all finishes he's attempted, followed closely by Kevin Harvick, and 10.5th place. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. tie at 11.7th as an average finish.

Another interesting statistic: Kyle Petty will be starting his 49th Bristol race this season. Will he make it an even 50 or more? The odds look very good that he will. Richard Petty started an incredible 60 races at Bristol during his career, followed by Ricky Rudd with 58 starts. Petty only won at Bristol 3 times in his career however. Seems like Bristol was not a track that treated the King kindly sometimes.

Who is the driver with the most wins ever at Bristol? Why Ole DW, of course. Darrell Waltrip won here 12 times. 3 drivers are tied for 2nd place in all time wins at Bristol. Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, and Rusty Wallace all won 9 races here during their careers.

Bristol is an amazing place, with a lot of history. It's Nascar's toughest ticket to get, with seats often being handed down from parents to children. Tickets can be obtained, but they are expensive. Bristol has a seating capacity of 160,000, and there is virtually never an empty seat on race day. In an era where Nascar insists it needs to build 1.5 mile cookie cutter tracks near major metropolitan areas in order to expand, Bristol is the exception to the rule. The Tri-Cities region of Northeastern Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is anything but a major population center. The Tri-Cities region made up of Bristol, TN and Bristol VA (The two Bristols are twin cities, with the state line running down the middle of the towns) and Johnson City and Kingsport TN have roughly a population of 480,000 to 500,000. That population would put the Bristol region in roughly 95th place in the most populous regions of the country. That's a very far cry from New York City.

What makes this place so special, year after year then? Why do people flock from virtually every state and nearly every province to watch a race in Bristol? The track is only slightly over a half mile long, but Bristol's banking is unique. 36 degree in the banking is some very serious banking! It's also the steepest in all of Nascar. The cars achieve incredible speed here. Not like at Atlanta, or Daytona, or Talladega, or California, but these cars are screaming around the banking, and there is a lot of beating and banging going on. In a way it's a return to the true roots of stock car racing. Little half mile bullrings where the drivers aren't afraid to use the old chrome horn, or fender, or anything else that is available to move over the guy in front of them. It's old style racing at it's best, and the fans love it.

Very few drivers leave the track in a great mood after the race. There are a lot of wrecks at Bristol, and a lot of them are just racing accidents, but some consider Bristol a good place to pay another driver back for a perceived injustice that may have occurred at another track like say, Atlanta. With all the contact being made just from normal racing, why not nudge that other fellow a little harder than necessary?

In fact, there is only one driver generally guaranteed to be in a good mood after a race at Bristol. The winner.

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