Bristol Motor Speedway has been the hottest ticket on the NASCAR Cup circuit for a long time. With the downturn in the economy, for the first time in more than 25 years there are tickets available for a Cup race at the fastest half-mile in the world. And in a move to add value to fans’ experiences, the track is going to run a star studded pro-am race between the Nationwide Series race and a UARA feature that is going to feature some of the sport’s greatest drivers of all time.
If a fan has never been to Bristol, the night of Saturday, March 21 is without a doubt one of the greatest opportunities for a fan to see it’s unique action and some history for a reasonable price. It’s too bad that the FOX network apparently doesn’t give a crap about what the fans get to see.
The lineup for the race is dynamic and certainly can change up until the last minute, but without question some of the best drivers who have ever gone around the half-mile in the mountains of Tennessee will be there to put on a show. The race is going to be 50 laps and is going to involve two-driver teams. There will be a celebrity driver paired with a former Cup driver. The celebrity will drive the first 15 laps of the race with the former driver finishing the final 35.
It’s actually a shame that they can’t run a little longer race, because 50 laps will be gone in 15 minutes, but it’s obviously necessary when you’re dealing with men in their 70s getting into racecars, James Hylton excluded.
The driver lineup that is currently in place is going to have one glaring hole that was filled until a day ago. Darrell Waltrip has informed the race organizers that he will not be able to compete in the race because he has to fulfill some television obligations for the FOX network.
Certainly the schedules of television personalities are jam packed with things that have to be done on a race weekend, and the myriad of programs takes hours to compile. Orchestrating the personalities and juggling all of their schedules is without a doubt a headache. However, we’re talking about a race with Junior Johnson, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough on the track.
Are you kidding me? FOX couldn’t film Trackside without Waltrip for a night? They weren’t able to hold off the latest episode of filming for the Adventures of Digger so that Darrell could get behind the wheel? There is no way that anyone can tell the fans that FOX is concerned about the fans or trying to put on the best show for the fans if they can’t let Darrell Waltrip out of his obligations for a little over an hour on Saturday night to put on an amazing show for the fans.
It might be for the best though. The way Darrell has run the last few times on the track, he probably wouldn’t have lasted 35 laps without wadding it up anyway.
The other part of the story that probably shouldn’t be surprising is that there is no planned TV coverage at this time. ESPN2’s crew will be there covering the race, although it’s going to be shown on ABC. FOX Sports is going to carry the Truck and Cup races. The SPEED gang will be there doing everything it is that they do, and yet no one has jumped on the opportunity to possibly market a little history to the hardcore fans who long for the good ol’ days.
There has to be an audience that would clamor to see Junior Johnson, Pearson and Yarborough mix it up on the high banks of Bristol. SPEED will probably have to run reruns of Pinks All Out, Living the Low Life, Unique Whips, Pass Time, Pimp my Ride, Chop Cut Rebuild, Bullrun or Supercars exposed to air instead of some actual racing. Forget about the fact that there will be living legends in the minds of almost all NASCAR fans running around a short track. (To their credit, SPEED will actually be airing the 12 hours of Sebring during the time the race is on TV)
If anyone is going to be in the vicinity of northeast Tennessee on March 21, they should work very hard to try and make it to the track. Not only will they see some great Nationwide Series racing and the rising stars of the sport in the UARA race, they’ll see several of the greatest Bristol drivers that have ever hit the 36 degrees of banking. At this point in time, the lineup for the Saturday Night Special, as the race is being called, looks like this:
This is going to be an incredible opportunity to see living legends and at least five future Hall of Fame drivers in action at Thunder Valley (and yes, for the purists out there, I know Thunder Valley is the moniker for the drag stip, but it is also used in conjunction with the short track). Let’s hope that fans can get to the track to watch the race, and if not, let’s pray someone comes to their senses and gets this action on tape.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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