- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 17:10
- Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 17:10
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NASCAR begins its spring short track season Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Would you believe that the track known for years as the toughest ticket in the sports still has seats available? After selling out 53 consecutive Cup races going back over 13 years, fans who have longed to attend a race at NASCAR’s most popular track have the opportunity to do just that.
Sunday’s Food City 500 caps a three-day race weekend that begins with practice for the Nationwide series cars and qualifying for the Cup Cars. Saturday is the running of the Scotts Turf Builder 300, one of the premiere Nationwide events on the schedule with a host of Sprint Cup drivers participating.
Also on the schedule Saturday is the highly anticipated Scotts Saturday Night Special at Bristol, an all-star race featuring some of the great legends of the sport. Race fans who thought they had seen the last race of Cale Yarborough, Harry Gant, David Pearson, Rusty Wallace, or even Junior Johnson are in for a big surprise.
Those champion drivers and more are scheduled to be a part of the first Saturday Night Special. Paired with celebrity partners, these legendary racers will run 35 laps of a 50 lap event to benefit charity and send race fans on a trip down memory lane.
“We made the decision over the winter to take what we believe is the best fan experience in racing and make it even better,” said Jeff Byrd, President and General Manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. ”When we started talking about this, we wanted to take the Food City 500 weekend to another level. We believe having these celebrated drivers back on the track where they all have won in a stock car does that. These guys helped make Bristol."
Assigned teammates will start the race and run 15 laps. At the end of that segment, some of Bristol’s best will start the second portion of the race in the order of finish of the first segment.
Drivers will be competing in late model stock cars painted to replicate the cars they made famous and $425,000 will be donated to the charity of choice of the winning team. The second place team will have $10,000 given to the charity of their choice, and third place receives $5,000 donated to their favorite charity.
But…that big Bristol trophy they get to keep for themselves.
“It’s been a while” said Junior Johnson, who has one win as a driver, but 20 at Bristol as a car owner. “But I think I can still turn some laps around this place.”
Cale Yarborough won nine times in 29 starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, including eight wins in 12 starts from 1973 through 1978. In March of 1973, Yarborough led all 500 laps of the Southeastern 500, followed four years later by leading 495 laps in the spring race. “Cale Yarborough is one of the greatest drivers in NACAR history and his performances at Bristol are legendary,” said speedway president and General Manager Jeff Byrd.
Rusty Wallace also has nine wins at Bristol, his last coming in 2000 when he swept both races at the .533 mile oval.
Darrell Waltrip, Bristol’s all-time winner with 12 victories has had to pull out of the race because of a scheduling conflict. “It seems crazy, but I am busier now than I was when I was a driver,” said Waltrip. “I have some commitments for Fox Sports that have come up since we began talking with the folks at Bristol about this race. I was looking forward to getting out there with some of those guys again; and some of them for the first time. After years with Junior Johnson as my boss, I was excited about rubbing fenders with him.”
Other drivers expected to compete include David Green, Jack Ingram, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, and L. D. Ottinger, Phil Parsons, and Jimmy Spencer.
After Bristol, current points determine automatic starters. Four races down, meaning it’s one to go before this season’s car owner points determine the top 35 automatic starting spots on a weekly basis. For the first five races of each season, the previous season’s final owner’s points determine the guarantees.
Three teams in trouble leap off the stats sheet at a glance: Mark Martin in the No. 5; Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet is 35th. Rookie Joey Logano in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs; Racing Toyota is 33Rd; and Ryan Newman in the No. 39 Stewart – Haas Racing Chevrolet in 32nd position.