Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Go, Bigger Show at Bristol

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Go, Bigger Show at Bristol

Article excerpt

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Try to get a ticket for today's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. You'd have better luck getting a seat at the Oscars.

There are 147,000 seats at the .533-mile short track and every one of them will be filled. Another 83,000 people have their name on a waiting list for tickets. Sign up now, and maybe your great-grandchildren will finally see a race.

The reason Bristol is so popular is simple -- it's the greatest race track on the planet.

It's twice the size of a football field and packs more punch than a season full of hockey games. It's where race cars are turned into battering rams, a place where patient men become high-speed lunatics.

"Say what you want about the Daytona 500, the races at Bristol -- especially the first race -- can make or break your season," said driver Sterling Marlin. "So many things can happen, most bad things, and you can lose a whole lot of points in a hurry."

Fifteen years ago, Marlin was knocked into the first-turn wall by Dale Earnhardt, who has a long history of bump-and-runs at Thunder Valley. Marlin's car erupted into flames, some spilling on the driver as he escaped. Marlin was quick to pull off his hair piece, stomp out the flames, and replace it in a matter of seconds.

Things happen quickly at Bristol.

"At Bristol, you're lucky if you can even find your fenders after the race," said driver Jeremy Mayfield. "The place is tough, but that's probably the reason they always seem to have a ton of people there and they always seem to have really good TV ratings. So many things can happen so often and so quickly that a fan would feel cheated if they missed it.

"It's good, hard racing, the kind of racing most of the drivers started their careers with and the kind of racing most fans absolutely love."

In 1995, Terry Labonte crossed the finish line sideways after Earnhardt's attempt to win the race sent Labonte into the concrete wall. …

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