The mystique of the Bristol Motor Speedway Night Race goes far beyond simply watching daredevil drivers circle a high-banked oval at insane speeds.
It’s all about the sensory overload.
Anyone that enjoys thrill rides at amusement parks and carnivals, should be able to appreciate the BMS rollercoaster.
This three-hour Saturday night adventure, which unfolds inside a giant bowl, can be compared to Space Mountain on steroids.
In the spirit of famed comedian David Letterman, here are 10 reasons to attend the Bristol Night Race:
Every sports fan can remember that feeling of walking into a major league baseball or football stadium for the first time. In addition to the other-worldly green turf, there was the ever-present buzz in the grandstands. For a first-time visitor to BMS, the sight of 162,000 seats and suites towering over the pit area is just as awe-inspiring as visit to Fenway Park in Boston or Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Bristol is the second-smallest market on the NASCAR tour, yet Bristol Motor Speedway is the third largest sports venue in the United States and the seventh largest in the world. While there are plenty of motorsports naysayers in the surrounding Bristol region, there’s no denying that BMS is a world class attraction. There’s a reason why the producers of the popular 2006 animated film, Cars, based their fictional Motor Speedway of the South around BMS.
From concerts and elaborate driver introductions to military flyovers and fireworks, the prerace show sets the big event tone at BMS. To get the total feel, fans should arrive early and roam the souvenir areas.
For those wanting a break from the monotony of the office or living room, BMS offers a rather extreme escape. When the green flag falls, the roar of all those finely-tuned engines can be overwhelming. Imagine 10 heavy metal rock bands blasting away at the same time.
It’s easy to get bogged down in numbers in motorsports, but one BMS stat can stagger any connoisseur of speed. In April’s Food City 500, Ryan Blaney established a new Bristol qualifying record of 14.528 seconds at 131.407 mph. Average speeds in the straightaways at BMS are in the 125 mph range. Factor in that BMS is a .533-mile oval and you can begin to appreciate the skill and courage required of drivers.
The scent of burnt rubber may be an acquired taste, but that’s just part of the NASCAR ritual. Much like a college football game, the familiar race day scents range from morning campfires to hot dogs on the grill.
The Big Picture
One of the biggest worries among owners of sports franchises and college athletic directors is competition from big screen televisions featuring all sorts of nifty gadgets. With a jaw-dropping contraption dubbed Colossus, BMS offers the best of the both worlds. The World’s largest outdoor, permanent, center-hung digital display includes four custom-built screens that are 30 feet tall by 63 feet wide along with a 540,000-watt audio system. Now that’s a big enough TV to satisfy any squirmy young spectator.
Before the track was resurfaced and reshaped with progressive banking in 2007, BMS was famed for multi-car incidents that often sparked finger-pointing and water bottle throwing disputes among drivers. That reputation is a big reason why the speedway had an unmatched streak of 55 sellouts from August 1982 until March 2010. While the number of crashes have declined in recent years, the 2019 spring race featured 11 cautions and several wild crashes.
In simpler days, people-watching was a popular activity. The current generation prefers to view life through smart phones and dumb “reality” shows, but a person can get a fascinating take on culture through the lens of a NASCAR track. For sheer joy, nothing beats watching the face of a child when the engines come to life just before the start of his first race at BMS.
From Eric Clapton to Peyton Manning, an array of famous people have roamed the BMS pits. Kyle Busch lacks the crossover appeal of those figures, but the Las Vegas resident and former Cup champion commands the attention of Bristol fans. Busch has not only eight won eight Cup races at BMS, he has ignited the passions of fans with his aggressive style on the track and bravado during interviews. While some fans will cringe, Busch will again be the featured attraction for this weekend’s Saturday Night spectacle at Bristol Motor Speedway.