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NASCAR Notebook: Bristol Preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams travels to the portion of Tennessee known as Thunder Valley. It's time once again for the semi annual demolition derby at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Twice a year NASCAR lines up 43 cars on this half mile, high banked, track and hopes for the best. In most cases the best scenario involves over time for the team's fabricators at the race shops who will be spending next week repairing wrecked cars. Here's the breakdown for Sunday's Food City 500:

160,000 seats in a 0.533 mile bullring
The Bristol Motor Speedway is a 0.533 mile concrete oval with 30 degree banking in the turns. The race is 500 laps or 266.5 miles.

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held at the speedway in 1961. The race was won by Jack Smith with some driver relief help from Johnny Allen. There has been 96 Sprint Cup races there since that time.

The speedway's asphalt surface was changed to the now famous concrete oval in 1992.

The speedway has a seating capacity of 160,000 and is unique because the grandstands circles the entire track oval. It also has 197 sky boxes. The speedway stands have been sold out well in advance for 53 consecutive races. However this year, with the nation's economy, Sunday's race is not quite a complete sell out although speedway officials remain optimistic that all the seats will be filled by race time.

The speedway's double pit road is as unique and treacherous as the track itself. There are pit stalls on both the front and backstretch. Entry to the pit roads are off of turn two with the exit being at the base of turn one. Making this situation even more unique is the fact there are only 42 available pit stalls meaning two of the teams are going to have to share a pit area until someone falls out of the race.
   
The race has 45 entries for the Food City 500 meaning two of the teams will be going home.

There are ten teams on the go or go home list, or those outside of the top 35 in owner's points, with Tony Stewart leading the list with a past champion's provisional.

The defending March race champion is Jeff Gordon. Carl Edwards won the last race in August.

Ryan "The Rocket Man" Newman holds the Bristol Motor Speedway's qualifying record, 14.908 seconds-128.709 MPH, set in March of 2003. A total of 22 races has been won from the pole position. Mark Martin has won a record high seven poles on qualifying day.

Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch are tied for most wins at Bristol among active drivers with five each. Darrell Waltrip has the most wins of all time with 12.
 
Chevrolet has the most manufacturer wins at Bristol with 41

Elliot Sadler holds the record for winning a race at Bristol from the lowest starting position in the field. Sadler won the 2001 race after starting 38th.

A Bristol race often has the reputation of a crash fest. The highest number of caution flags during a NASCAR Sprint Cup race there is 20 which occurred three different times. Believe it or not the lowest amount of caution flags is zero. A race in 1971 actually went 500 green flag laps. The most caution laps is 167 which occurred back in 1965. The  most cars running at the finish of a Bristol occurred this time last year when 42 cars crossed under the checkers. The fewest cars running at the finish was seven back in 1966.

The Food City 500 will be aired on Sunday by Fox Sports beginning at 1:30 pm eastern time. (whoo whoo- more "Digger" promotions!) 

The companion race, the NASCAR Nationwide Series' Scotts Turf Builder 300. will be held Saturday and can be seen on ABC Sports beginning at 2 pm eastern. There are 52 entries for the 43 car starting field. Clint Bowyer is the defending race champion.

LAS VEGAS NUMBERS.

The word from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange-WSE, regarding Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Bristol, was fairly predictable. "Concrete" Carl Edwards, who always seems to do well racing on concrete surfaces, is rated at 6 to 1 odds. Sitting in that 6 to 1 group with Edwards is a rejuvenated Jeff Gordon along with the always hard charging Kyle Busch. The older Busch brother, Kurt, who has been red hot lately is rated at 7 to 1 despite the fact that he's a five time winner at this track.

Some other drivers of interest includes Denny Hamlin, 10 to 1, while Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are set at 12 to 1. In the 15 to 1 group are drivers Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton despite the fact he won this race last year. For you Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr fans your favorite drivers are rated at 18 to 1.

Again we need to remind you that NASCAR does not condone this type of activity and these betting odds should be taken for their entertainment value. That would likely be the level of entertainment you're going to enjoy after your driver wins the race and puts a giant wad of cash in your pockets.

BOOB TUBE VISITS.

There were a couple of items regarding Sprint Cup stars on television beyond the usual NASCAR themed programs that we all watch. Jeff Burton's guest stint on the renowned soap opera "General Hospital" was aired on March 18th. Burton played himself and walked into a "Port Charles" tavern where he struck up a conversation with  racing super fan Dr Patrick Drake, a "General Hospital" neurosurgeon, played by famed daytime actor Jason Thompson. In the scene Dr Drake failed to recognize Burton and during the course of a comedic conversation even suggested that Burton didn't know a lot about NASCAR racing.

Look for Michael Waltrip to make an appearance on the popular NBC sitcom "My Name Is Earl" on April 30th. Waltrip will play himself and the story line has him helping Earl and his brother out of a jam. The special guest appearance on the show was set up following a TV commercial for the Auto Club Speedway that Waltrip did with actor Greg Germann. It was Auto Club Speedway President Gilliam Zucker, who reportedly has a lot of connections in the Hollywood entertainment industry, who called the show's creator and Executive Producer. Greg Garcia, and suggested that Waltrip's natural sense of humor would be great on his show.

Look for driver Clint Bowyer to make a special appearance on the NBC reality program "The Biggest Loser" which will air March 24th. Bowyer said that the process the show's contestants go through to drop life saving weight "is a real eye opener" and added "this show is all about winning. It's amazing to see how hard everyone works and the sacrifices that they make."

A VERY UNIQUE MARKETING PROGRAM.

Tommy Baldwin Racing, who fields the #36 Toyota driven by Scott Riggs, is one of the inspirational start up teams that sprang to life just prior to this year's Daytona 500. Realizing that full time sponsorship for the 2009 Sprint Cup season was going to be difficult, Baldwin teamed with the Everest Marketing Group and created the Support Small Businesses Of America Program. For the nominal fee of only $8,000 a small company can place its logo on the C post of the Baldwin race car. The program also includes two VIP credentials to visit the NASCAR garage area as well as access to pit road during practice sessions and the race. The small business sponsor will also receive a link on www.tommybaldwnracing.net where they can present discount coupons for their good and services to race fans.

Tommy Baldwin Racing recently announced that Nexxus Lighting, a North Carolina based distributor of environmentally friendly light bulbs, will support the team for Sunday's race at the Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also helping out Baldwin Racing for the Bristol race will be Mark Martin Dot Com. Martin is promoting his fifth annual Fan Appreciation Day which will be held April 9th and 10th at his Ford-Mercury dealership in Batesville-Arkansas. For a limited time only Mark Martin fans can dial up the Baldwin Racing website and purchase a Mark Martin Fan Appreciation Day T shirt for only $7.50 which is a 50 percent discount on the regular price.

A COMEBACK WE'D ALL LIKE TO SEE.

While recently making a public appearance at a charity event in North Carolina, driver Jerry Nadeau said he wants to return to racing and added "I’m just a racer, I love to race and if I can come back to it in any capacity then I'll do it. Nadeau's promising NASCAR career came to a sudden halt in 2003 following a horrific crash during a Sprint Cup race held at the Richmond  International Raceway. There was diagnosed massive head trauma among his many injuries. Nadeau admitted that he still experiences some occasional numbness on parts of the left side of his body but quickly pointed out that he has been medically cleared to return to racing.

AND FINALLY

"Forbes Magazine" recently released its annual list of American billionaires and noted that there was a 30 percent decline in the list from last year due to the state of the national economy. Two prominent figures in the world of NASCAR fell off of this year's Forbes list. It now appears that Roger Penske, NASCAR and Indy Car team owner, is no longer a billionaire. The same applies to Bruton Smith, owner and chairman of SMI-Speedway Motorsports Inc, who owns several race tracks that has NASCAR Sprint Cup race dates.

Meanwhile here in Reality Ville-USA I just paid nearly $4 for a loaf of bread so please pardon me if I don't give a damn about this story.

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