Bristol Race Week Preview: Challenging the high banks of the World’s Fastest-Half Mile

Bristol Motor SpeedwayThis week, the NASCAR circuit makes its first stop of the season in Thunder Valley as the Monster Energy Cup and Xfinity Series descend upon the high banks of The Last Great Colosseum, Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.

As the racing gladiators get set to do battle on the World’s Fastest Half Mile, some teams are looking for answers, some luck and perhaps, some divine intervention on their 2018 seasons.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon is seeking a return to victory lane after a dry spell since his big win at the World Center of Racing in February.

“It’s a special place,” said the grandson of car owner Richard Childress. Dillon has so much respect for the track, he described racing on the .533-mile oval track as a daunting challenge and a battle royale.

“You feel like a gladiator racing out there in front of a lot of people, beating and banging, (racing) side by side. You never can catch a breath the whole race. Physically it’s demanding and mentally it’s taxing.”

Austin DIllon is a man on a mission. Winning the Coca-Cola 600 last year was big.  Winning Daytona was even bigger.

He’s not quite satisfied.

One win and one top five finish this year, DIllon sits in 13th place in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup standings, DIllon feels he could do better and Bristol might be the place to put a kick in the rear of the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet team to get the team moving toward the front of the pack of the standings and toward a championship.

The track will host series leader Kyle Busch as he looks to continue his domination of Bristol from the August race with series champion Martin Truex, Jr. nipping at his heels to retake the lead in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings.

As always in the spring, race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the cornerstone events in the early season of 30+ plus races and one of the most anticipated events on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

While it may be a highly anticipated return to the high banks for Dillon, the atmosphere will certainly be electric as the No. 9 car will return to the high banks, when Chase Elliott returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for Hendrick Motorsports but displaying the iconic number made famous by his father, Bill, years ago.

In racing, numbers are like a business card, your ID card so to speak.  For Austin Dillon,  racing the iconic number 3, previously driven by the late Dale Earnhardt and for Dawsonville, GA’s Chase Elliott, it’s driving the number 9, driven by his father, “Awesome Bill” or “Million Dollar Bill” Elliott.

The younger Elliot, who drove the iconic number 24, made famous by Jeff Gordon last season, thinks the change in the off season was a great move.

“It is special to me just because of the history I’ve had with it,” Elliott said. “Obviously I would have never chose that number to start racing if it wasn’t for my dad.  I have a lot of history with it myself, with our (XFINITY Series) championship in ’14, all my short track races, was all in that number.”

Elliott added that the number is “kind of home to me.  Always been my favorite number.  If you could choose your favorite number to race, I think everybody here would, wouldn’t you? So, yeah.”

The younger Elliott will try to put the NAPA Auto Parts No, 9 in victory lane at Bristol for only the second time.  His dad, known more for his impressive 200-mph plus dominating performances at the superspeedways, raced to his lone Bristol victory on the famed high banks 30 years ago, taking the checkered flag here in 1988.

While we are talking numbers, maybe this year is the year for Elliott at BMS. It’s already happened for Austin Dillon this season at Daytona.

You might have heard the story of Dale Earnhardt seeking his first ever win at Daytona in 1998 and the story of the “lucky penny” given to “The Intimidator” by a fan prior to the Daytona 500 and his eventual win at Daytona.

And to quote the famous baseball player and quoting sage, Yogi Berra, this year it was “deja vu all over again”.  Dillon won the 2018 Daytona with another “lucky penny” given to him by a young fan.

It was a like something out of a movie or movie script commented car owner and DIllon’s grandfather, Richard Childress.

Chase Elliot: Trying to overcome tough sledding for Elliots at Bristol

Chase Elliot will be looking for his first NASCAR Monster Energy Cup win of his career at Bristol this Sunday and if he succeeds, he will chalk up only the second win by an Elliot at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Father Bill took the checkered flag to his only win at BMS in 1988 and one of two short track wins in his career.  The other short track win coming at Richmond.  The younger Elliott understands the demands of the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

But the younger Elliott knows that getting a win at BMS just doesn’t happen.  It takes a lot more than luck to take a win in The Last Great Colosseum.

“Bristol is a physical place,” commented Elliott.

The storylines leading into Bristol are still being written and Dillon, Elliott, Kyle Busch and others have a chance to conquer the Last Great Colosseum.

Action at the World’s Fastest Half Mile, gets underway with Bush’s Beans Pole Day on Friday April 13th with the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race and the Zombie Auto 150 NASCAR K&N Series event on Saturday April 14th. On Sunday April 15th, it’s the running of the Food City 500 in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series.

Fans attending the race will also notice a few changes at BMS with one big change; the announcement of Bristol Motor Speedway joining the Coca-Cola Racing Family through a new partnership as the exclusive soft drink beverage partner, effective immediately. The multi-year agreement aligns the popular global soft drink brand with The Last Great Colosseum, the fastest and most entertaining short track in the world.

The new agreement also gives Coca-Cola “pouring rights” at The World’s Fastest Half-Mile along with signage and hospitality rights for all events and aligns the iconic brand in sponsorship relationships at all eight of the Speedway Motorsports Inc. facilities.

Coca-Cola was the exclusive beverage partner at BMS from the early 1980s until 2007.

“We are thrilled to resume our partnership with an iconic brand like Coca-Cola,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. “Coca-Cola has an immense history in NASCAR as well as with our parent company, SMI and all of our sister tracks. The brand also has a storied history here at Bristol. We’re certain our fans are going to enjoy having refreshing Coca-Cola beverages while they watch some great racing action at The Last Great Colosseum.”

Tickets for the Food City 500 weekend are still available. Weekend packages start at just $89 for adults and $10 for kids (12-and-under). For more information, visit www.BristolTix.com or call 423-BRISTOL.

By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press


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