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Five Memorable Races From the Food City 500

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Every NASCAR racer loves Bristol. More importantly, every NASCAR driver
is desperate to win at Bristol. Here are five memorable Food City 500 races.

Over the years, Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted some of NASCAR’s most significant racing moments in Bristol, Tennessee. Bristol hosts two NASCAR Cup Series races each year on a course just over a half mile long.

Rusty Wallace has the most wins in Bristol’s storied history, with six wins between 1986 and 2000, while Hendrick Motorsports’ eight wins is the most by a single team.

As this year’s Food City 500 approaches, we decided to look back at some of the most memorable races in Food City 500 history.

Rusty Wallace Beats Dale Earnhardt by a Nose in 1993

Wallace is the most frequently winning driver in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway with six wins. However, The Intimidator is right behind him with five wins. The deciding race, as it turns out, happened in 1993.

The 1993 race was the second under the Food City 500 name, and it was indeed a race to remember, the best finish in the race’s history. It wasn’t quite the finish we just saw at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 21, but the odds this week were low that there would be a three-way photo finish.

In other words, it is hard for any race finish to be better than that brilliant finish in Atlanta

Wallace and Dale Earnhardt battled for the entire race, but with 15 laps to go, Wallace got a reprieve when Earnhard had to fight to get around a lapped car in Mark Martin.

The Intimidator dispatched Martin quickly, but it was enough time to allow Wallace to build up a lead that Earnhardt couldn’t return from. In the end, Wallace beat Earnhardt by .82 seconds and performed a Polish victory lap, driving clockwise around the track, as a salute to the celebration’s creator, Alan Kulwicki.

A few days prior, the five-time race winner passed away in a plane crash. 

Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth Battle It Out in 2006

In NASCAR, drivers have a saying: rubbin’ is racin. Short tracks often bring this term to life more than others, as evidenced by the number of Food City 500s marked by lots of bumping and hot tempers.

2006 is a prime example of this, as Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth came to blows. As the two battled for position, Gordon nudged Kenseth out of the way late in the race, attempting to get the win. 

Kenseth didn’t take the nudge well and ultimately spun Gordon out. Kenseth battled to secure a 3rd-place finish, but an angry Gordon limped to the finish line in the 21st.

After the race, Gordon ran Kenseth down, and a shoving match ensued. Kenseth would later apologize for the crash. 

Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano Tussle in 2013

Another example of tempers flaring at Bristol is when Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano tangled back in 2013. Both drivers are known for their hot-headed natures; Hamlin drove into the back of Logano and spun him out.

However, leader Jeff Gordon’s crash allowed Logano to stay on the lead lap and in contention for the race. Hamlin found more trouble late in the race, ending up in the wall and limping home to a 23rd-place finish. Logano, despite his crash earlier, was able to crawl back to 17th. 

Neither driver found each other again on the race track, but Logano reached Hamlin’s car after the checkered flag and put his head into the cockpit. A shoving match ensued before Logano was pulled back.

Logano had been running as high as 4th before the spin.

Carl Edwards Wins His Final Race at Bristol in 2016

Carl Edwards had quite the career for someone who wasn’t expected to ever race in NASCAR. The Columbia, Missouri native dropped out of college at Mizzou to pursue full-time driving, working as an assistant teacher to fund his dream.

Despite the long odds, Edwards had a marvelous NASCAR career, winning 28 races across 12 years. During that time, he became known for his signature victory backflip, something he did one last time at Bristol in the 2016 Food City 500.

After starting on pole, Edwards dominated the race, leading 276 of 500 laps to secure the win, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch down the stretch.

At one point in the season, he was as high as 3rd in the points standings and ended up finishing 4th, but he shocked the world by stepping away from NASCAR after the season. 

NASCAR Runs Its First Dirt Race in 50 Years in 2021

NASCAR’s origins involved a lot of dirt. And in 2021, the Food City 500 brought NASCAR back to dirt for the first time in over 50 years. The race was filled with accidents as drivers adjusted to the dirt track, but Joey Logano won the first-ever modern-era dirt race in overtime.

Kyle Larson started the race on pole, and Martin Truex Jr. led the most laps with 122, but a let run elevated Logano, who also moved into 2nd place in the championship with the win. However, the dirt race lasted just three years, and Bristol goes back to concrete this season.

What’s Next for the Food City 500?

Bristol remains one of the most prestigious venues in motorsport. Along with Daytona, every driver wants to win at Bristol. The Food City 500 is the earliest chance for drivers to do that, with the next race set to take place on March 17.

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