NASCAR returns to Bristol: Race Week gets into full swing

Bristol Motor SpeedwayOne thing is certain, when the NASCAR circuit comes to Bristol, sparks will fly and tempers will certainly flare to add to the brightness and spectacle that has been and continues to be Bristol Motor Speedway and The Last Great Colosseum.

When August rolls around and the last few hazy days of summer are in the air, it can only mean one thing: the short track tradition of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race is back in town as

NASCAR’s best and most popular drivers will descend upon Bristol this week for one of the toughest battles in racing: 500 laps around the high-banked, half-mile oval.

Any race at Bristol is a hard fought affair, and like the battles for supremacy that raged in ancient times in the colosseums of the old world, drivers will joust as in the days of old but flanked in sheet metal and using horsepower to challenge the other for the right to be called the winner of the Night Race at Bristol.

Add to the spectacle under the lights, fans from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries will descend upon that shining beacon in the hills of East Tennessee to see drivers attempt to tame a facility that was once likened to “flying a jet fighter through a gymnasium” at a race that has been home to some of the most iconic moments in the sport.

“When you think of action under the lights, you think of Bristol,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race is short track racing at its best. Whether it’s the iconic 1999 Night Race clash between Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte that celebrates its 20th anniversary, or the incredible racing that continues to this day, you know fans are in for a treat with incredible short track action. Add on all the great things to see and do, both in the region and at the track, and it truly becomes an experience to remember.”

Some highlights of the race week include:

Short Track Racing Action

Some of the best drivers in the world hit the high banks under the lights at one of the most demanding circuits in the racing world with action in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and Pinty’s Qualifying), NASCAR Xfinity Series (Food City 300), NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics) and the NASCAR K&N Series (Bush’s Beans 150).

Remembering and honoring what makes Bristol a major stop on the schedule

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the famed Dale Earnhardt/Terry Labonte Clash.  That 1999 Night Race finish remains one of the most iconic moments in NASCAR history as Earnhardt’s attempt to supposedly “rattle the cage” of Texas Terry Labonte on the final lap ended with Labonte’s No. 5 Chevy Monte Carlo spinning in a plume of smoke and boos raining down on the Colosseum and at The Intimidator himself. The event will be remembered by many and also celebrated and brought to the forefront of the younger generation of NASCAR fans.

Labonte will be a guest at the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and will be honored during pre-race ceremonies The 2019 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race commemorative program features the iconic Garry Hill painting of the clash; the painting was used on a Bristol program cover once before at the 2000 Night Race.

More Milestones and a return of a fan event to downtown Bristol

This year also marks another milestone: The MRO Children’s Choir 20th Anniversary. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Motor Racing Outreach kids singing the National Anthem before the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. MRO has invited every kid who has participated previously to come back and sing with the group. Former participants include NASCAR Cup Series star Chase Elliott and many kids of today’s NASCAR stars, including Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

Food City Family Race Night returns to State Street on Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 1 to 9 p.m. The free fanfest will host the official autograph session for the playoff contenders in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series as well as the NASCAR K&N Series.

A taste of what is to come at BMS in 2020

Fans will also get a taste of what 2020 holds for Bristol as a playoff racetrack as playoff intensity comes to BMS for the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics: Eight NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2019 playoffs, which begins with the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics on Thursday, Aug. 15. A quick start is crucial as one of the playoff drivers can clinch their spot in the next round of the playoffs with a win under the lights at Bristol.

Tickets for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race are still available. Fans can grab tickets at their neighborhood Food City for only $60 while buying their race essentials. But act fast, in-store sales end at store closing time this Tuesday, Aug. 13.  A two-day weekend package is also available through the BMS ticket office, beginning at just $95. Visit BristolTix.com or call 423-BRISTOL.

By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press

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