Thursday, March 13, 2008

Food City 500 Preview

Each week Ridebuyer delves deep into the misunderstood, oft terrifying, world of American saloon-car racing known as NASCAR. This week: Bristol.

Back to the roots of NASCAR

TV: Fox 1:30pm EST

Location: Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, TN)

Distance: 266 miles/500 laps

2007 Bristol winners: Kyle Busch (spring race); Carl Edwards (fall race).

*What to know:

Bristol is like a girl I knew in high school*. The track, like Jen, is short, fast, a bit country, and high as shit (Bristol’s banking is 36-degrees in the corners and Jen had an unquenchable thirst for Quaaludes). Bristol (like its sister city in CT-the home of a certain sports themed television network) is in the middle of fucking nowhere. The track is nestled deep in the backwoods and mountains of Tennessee. The track has seating for 165,000 people, or approximately two-thirds of the entire population of Tennessee, if I’m reading the latest census numbers correctly.
*we all know this is false. I knew no girls in high school, play along.
Campground parties are legendary at BMS, only the infield at Talladega can compete with the hill-folk debauchery that Bristol boasts. Campgrounds are littered around the periphery of the track and come readymade for canned beer, Confederate Flags, Skoal and Mardi Gras beads. Below is a previously-unpublished account of a race weekend Saturday evening inside a Bristol camping compound. Enjoy the glimpse into the eye of the beast.

Two people having sex can be a beautiful thing to watch. Erotic, mesmerizing, almost hypnotic, as bodies in fluid motion interact. What I was witnessing was neither beautiful, nor mesmerizing and certainly not erotic. My first trip to a car race; I had only been at the campground for an hour, maybe less, and this is what greeted me.

The man exemplified the Bristol-scene. Mid-fifties, graying hair, perfectly content with his exhibitionist ways. He was not sober, yet not sloppy drunk; his balance was clearly good as witnessed by the crowd that had gathered. The light from the campfire glistened off the silver handle of the man’s holster-affixed firearm. The holster was serving a duel-role, not only holding the gun, but supporting his gut. Aside from the holster, a pair of boots and a vintage Dick Trickle hat (turned backwards), the man was completely nude. He looked like John Daly in 11 years, only not dead.

The woman was bent over in front of the Trickle fan. She was far less cognizant-looking. Her Kasey Kahne tee-shirt was sized XL and played the roll of dress. Her elbows quivered as they supported her substantial weight. The hood of that F-150 would surely never be the same. The crowd of onlookers grew as night continued to fall. My first night at the track.

The account digresses from here, turning into a drug-fueled dialog about the pros and cons of two tires verses four. It ends with our narrator being crucified on the timing and scoring tower high above the infield.

Thunder Valley is not a place to be trifled with, yet it makes the perfect location for NASCAR to stage their first real Southern event of the season. This is old-time short track racing at its finest. A Saturday night shootout held on Sunday. The two races NASCAR runs at Bristol are the closest thing to the UFC this side of… well the UFC, I guess. Contact will be made and is necessary to make a pass stick. Entertainment ensues.

*Who to watch:

Kyle Busch: The points leader won this race last year (in the first outing for the CoT), and is coming off of a win last weekend in Atlanta. His average finish at Bristol is 13.5 and he has four career top-10 finishes in Thunder Valley. Toyota winning at a Bristol Cup race? “That sounds un-American,” you say. Well, I guess the terrorists won.

Jeff Gordon: The early season has been tough on Hendrick Motorsports and Gordon is reportedly taking this quite hard (at least until he looks at his wife, that is). This race could be the breakthrough the team needs. Gordon has won five times on the high-banks. That is five, like, one more than four. That is a lot.

Kurt Busch: How many wins does the elder Busch have at Bristol? See above (still not sure? It rhymes with sfive). Add nine top-10 finishes to that and consistent finishes this season, you get the picture.

*Dark Horse*

Ryan Newman: Consistent finishes this season and always fast at BMS. He only has one top-five finish, but that is why he is a “dark horse.” And yes, I do feel strange listing the Daytona 500 winner as a dark horse, but shut up.

*For those who wish to drink

Here is all of your tailgating information. Coolers are cool in the stands. I suggest Wild Turkey; since you are in the South, why not live large? And, as always, by tailgating (or camping in this case) at a NASCAR event, you continue to perpetrate all sorts of stereotypes.

*Series points to date:

Next race (in two weeks), Martinsville. More short tracks in the South... Ye haw? Here is a gratuitous Smokey and the Bandit montage to get you in the mood.

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