The locals say the difference between the early spring race at Bristol and the late summer race at Bristol is like night and day, or day and night.
It’s the difference between Virginia and Tennessee.
And between Kurt and Kyle Busch.
It’s also the difference between myth and reality, the truth lying somewhere in the middle, For years and years, Bristol Motor Speedway’s high-banked turns were said to be 36 degrees, which is a good indication of why there are no math majors involved in stock-car racing.
Turns out the original plans for the track, which were drawn up on a brown paper bag, called for 22-degree banking. Over the years, the track was reconfigured and the banking altered and the legend (or the lie) was born.
Over the years, the track has been given nicknames and monikers like the Tennessee Teacup and the Last Great Coliseum, even actually renaming it Bristol International Raceway for a while. That didn’t last long.
But through the years, the locals liked to argue which was the better race, the “day” race or the “night” race. The locals generally went with the one you could watch and go home on the same day instead of the one that seemed to attract outsiders who stayed all weekend and never seemed to go home.
But the most galling thing the locals have seen happen to Bristol in its modern era is the dominance of the Busch brothers. Talk about people who won’t go away, starting in 2002 when older brother Kurt pushed Jimmy Spencer out of the way and won the race amid thunderous boos from the crowd.
To this day, the locals don’t like him one bit. Or his little brother either.
So of course they’ve won 13 times between them, including the last three.
People looking for reasons why Bristol no longer has the attraction it once did point to that reason alone. They’re tired of watching Kurt and Kyle win every time they show up.
But the truth is deeper, of course. For whatever reason, they don’t race Bristol like they used to. The races seem to drag on instead of providing three hours of collisions and fights, like in the old days. And the locals will tell you that neither the spring race nor the night race are anything like they used to be, and neither one of them comes close to the best races ever here.
That was when the old track president Jeff Byrd decided to truck in red clay from God knows where and stage the World of Outlaws sprint-car races. It was an engineering nightmare. And it made quite a mess.
But the Busch brothers weren’t invited. They would’ve probably finished 1-2.