What is on a NASCAR competitor’s bucket list varies depending on who is asked. Some have already achieved many of their goals, while some are still not checked off. Others are still very full, and often getting items added with each year.
But, one thing that can be considered something that is always on a driver’s bucket list, whether it has already been done or yet to be achieved, is winning at Bristol. Specifically, winning the night race at Bristol. It is a different feeling when the lights come on at this place, because the track is so small but yet packs so much action. The lights make the concrete surface seem like it’s white ice, and the drivers were sliding their cars like they were on a hockey rink.
That’s just the action on the track, because above the walls of the half-mile surface are nearly 160,000 fans at every section. Not one area left open, as it becomes a true coliseum that has become epic.
Years ago, this track only had 31,000 seats on one straightaway, and the vision of where it would go seemed unclear. The asphalt surface was worn, and was tough on drivers. But, the track changed to concrete, then the banking went steep…very steep. The speeds went up, and the action shot up to heights no one ever anticipated.
Its a track that has seen change for the good, and also for the bad in a sense. When the track added new concrete with progressive banking, the attitude of what was Bristol changed. No more banging fenders for the right line, but instead multiple lines and cars sometimes three-wide. It wasn’t what made the track famous, and it was hurting the speedway in numbers of fans, and revenue.
To try and win the hearts of the old-school Bristol fans back, the track ground the top groove down, and instead of creating the old Bristol, it did something else…switched the way the new Bristol handled.
There was one preferred line once again, but it was along the top, where the concrete was ground down. It has been that way since, almost becoming similar to Darlington, because cars seem to brush the wall and keep going, at least for a while. The difference being at Bristol, with so little time to recover, it means that damage is more intense than what a “Darlington Stripe” gives.
No matter what, in the end, a win under the lights at Bristol means that one of the premier events on the season has become a great achievement. Whether it’s the first win in this race or yet another in the history books, a win here means that one handled the high banks and the concrete for 500 laps, and was the best one on that night.
It all leads to one final saying that sums up what Thunder Valley is known for. Simply put…It’s Bristol, Baby!
RESULTS: 1-Logano 2-Keselowski 3-Kenseth 4-Johnson 5-Kurt Busch 6-Stenhouse Jr. 7-Edwards 8-McMurray 9-Menard 10-Biffle
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 14-Allmendinger 16-Gordon 36-Kyle Busch 39-Earnhardt Jr. 40-Hamlin 41-Almirola
CAUTIONS: 9 for 64 laps. Lap 62-67 (Competition), 70-76 (#32, 66, 83, 98 Accident-T2), 126-136 (#15, 18, 42, 43, 55 Accident-T3), 162-172 (#4, 11, 88 Accident-FS), 196-200 (#7 Accident-T7), 265-269 (#10, 23 Accident-T2), 360-366 (Debris), 376-381 (#9 Accident-FS), 432-437 (Debris).
LEAD CHANGES: 16 among 9 drivers. Harvick 1-37, Gordon 38-54, Kyle Busch 55-62, Kenseth 64-103, Logano 104-132, Hamlin 133-160, Harvick 161-197, Kahne 198-237, McMurray 238-265, Keselowski 266-311, McMurray 312-360, Logano 361, McMurray 362-432, Logano 433, Kenseth 434-455, Logano 456-500.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 52 Mins.
AVERAGE SPEED: 92.965 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.39 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Jeff Gordon, 845 points*; 2. Earnhardt Jr, -27*; 3. Keselowski, -69*; 4. Logano*; 5. Kenseth, -94: 6. Johnson, -119*; 7. Harvick, -124*; 8. Edwards, -129*; 9. Newman, -135; 10. Bowyer, -146.
*Locked into Chase
OTHER ELIGIBLE DRIVERS: Kyle Busch (17th, 1 win), Denny Hamlin (20th, 1 win), A.J. Allmendinger (21st, 1 win), Kurt Busch (22nd, 1 win), Aric Almirola (24th, 1 win)