News & Media

Bristol celebrating 20 years as concrete track

August 21, 2012, Team Release,

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- When Bristol Motor Speedway changed its surface from asphalt to concrete prior to the August race in 1992, nobody was really quite sure what to expect.

The iconic half-mile oval had been asphalt since its beginning in 1961 but as the track was reconfigured from 22 degrees of banking to nearly 36 in 1969, figuring out a way to keep that type of surface from coming apart became quite a challenge. As the years wore on issues with the asphalt continued to mount until finally, in 1992, former owner Larry Carrier, tired of the constant repaving and patching, made an epic decision -- he was tearing up the track and replacing the old surface with concrete.

New is old again

After promising a return to "old-style racing," Bristol chose to grind down the concrete to make it harder to run side by side. But there were challenges along the way.

No other track that hosted NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series was, or had ever been, concrete. There were tracks that featured some concrete but when BMS had its facelift, the 1992 Bud 500 became the first Cup race ever contested on a completely concrete surface.

Fittingly enough, Darrell Waltrip, the all-time winningest driver at BMS, notched his 12th and final victory in that race.

"We beat ol' Dale [Earnhardt] for that win," Waltrip recalled. "That was the first race on concrete, after they had switched from asphalt. A lot of guys didn't like concrete, said it was too rough. Everybody said that the concrete would change everything for me, that I wouldn't be as good.

"Well, that concrete didn't change a thing for me because I went out there and won that race. That one meant a lot to me because people didn't think I could win on that concrete."

While Waltrip was the first to notch a win on concrete, Rusty Wallace was the most prolific. In 40 races contested on concrete, Wallace snagged six from 1993 to 2000. Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch all have five wins apiece while Dale Earnhardt, Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski each have two.

It is no secret what the most exciting race on concrete was as far as fans are concerned. The top moment in BMS history, as voted by them, is the memorable 1999 victory by Earnhardt, during which he tagged and turned Labonte for the win.

Keselowski has won the past two Cup races at BMS, which makes it, not so surprisingly, one of his favorite spots on the NASCAR tour.

"I love Bristol and Bristol loves me," Keselowski said. "It is a great track that really demands 100 percent out of a driver and out of a team. I love racing on this concrete. This is an earn-it place. There ain't no doubt about that."

Keselowski fully intends to make it three in a row come Saturday night.

"It's just a great place for me," he said. "Getting my Nationwide win there [in 2008] was one of the greatest moments ever for me. And then winning the last two Cup races ... well, I'm just really proud of that. Believe me, I'm perfectly happy to keep on winning at Bristol and I'm really looking forward to getting back there."