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Bristol Motor Speedway

From Academic Kids

Template:NASCAR track

Bristol Motor Speedway is a NASCAR short track located in Bluff City, Tennessee, near Bristol. It was constructed in 1960, and held its first NASCAR race on July 30, 1961.

As recently as the late 1970s BMS was regarded as a minor track located in a rural, somewhat isolated area, with seating for less than 30,000 persons. It was then under the same management as the short track at the Fairgrounds in Nashville. Since then, its growth has been phenomenal. When Winston Cup racing was removed from the Nashville Fairgrounds after the 1984 season, Bristol became Tennessee's only home for the top level of NASCAR racing. NASCAR is very popular in Tennessee, as it is in most of the Southeastern United States, and many Nashville-area NASCAR fans began annual (or biannual) trips to Bristol. Additions to the stands became an almost-annual event, and the facility now seats in excess of 160,000 persons, making it by far the largest sports venue of any type in the state of Tennessee. Tall stands now completely surround the entire track, which is only .586 miles (943 m) long.

The track is of all-concrete construction similar to Dover, except far shorter, and has the most steeply banked turns of any track used by NASCAR. However, the track is so short that speeds here are far lower than is typical on most NASCAR oval tracks, making for a considerable amount of "swapping paint". Also, the initial starting grid of 43 vehicles extends almost halfway around the track, meaning that the slower-qualifying cars and those using provisional starts begin the race almost half a lap down. Another anomaly is that the short overall length means that there are two sets of pits. Slower starters are usually relegated to those on the backstretch.

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The congestion inherent in this facility and the power of the cars has been likened to "flying fighter jets in a gymnasium." The track is one that tends to be either loved or hated by fans and drivers alike. Purists who grew up driving or attending races at older short tracks located at fairgrounds and similar places tend to love Bristol; those raised on superspeedway racing tend to chafe at the lower speeds. Often Bristol races are the scene of the highest number of yellow-flag caution laps in the NASCAR season; with so many cars in such a small space, contact is almost inevitable. The short lap length and the unpredictable nature of the racing mean that this is one of the few remaining NASCAR tracks at which it is feasible for a driver to come back to win a race from several laps down; at most modern tracks, especially superspeedways, this is almost impossible. The short lap length also cuts the other way; any unscheduled pit stop for reasons such as a cut tire will result in the driver going two or more laps down as it is almost impossible to get anything done to a car during the time taken to complete one circuit, especially under green-flag conditions.

The facility has long been nicknamed Thunder Valley. Both current Nextel Cup races held at Bristol are for 500 laps; one is generally sponsored by area grocery chain Food City and the other one has rotated among several sponsors (the current sponsor is Sharpie). Bristol is also a very fertile ground for other levels and types of racing; Busch Series races here often draw over 100,000 spectators, making it one of the best-drawing Busch venues. In the past, dirt has been spread over the oval and it has been used for sprint car racing. Even these events have drawn over 100,000 spectators, a crowd almost unheard of in sprint history. Many of the fans come from the East Tennessee area, but thousands more come from all parts of the country to experience Bristol's unique brand of racing. In addition, there is a quarter-mile drag strip that hosts an annual NHRA event each year. Even in the offseason, the complex attracts fans during the Christmas season by facilitating a miles-long holiday lights display that culminates with a lap on the actual speedway track itself.

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