Thirty years later: 'I always looked up to that trophy, literally and figuratively'
Take a virtual lap around Bristol Motor Speedway
Track announces direct impact of $417 million, indirect of $1.4 billion from 2012-14
Bruce: Track's famous hot dogs have been essential part of race weekend Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live They're trifling with tradition at Martinsville, and you'd think a track that has been on the circuit ever since there was a circuit to be on would know better. They're not changing race dates or moving the start/finish line from the frontstretch to the backstretch. There will still be asphalt on the straightaways and concrete in the corners. And the train tracks up on the hill? They're still there. This goes deeper. Much deeper. Martinsville Speedway is changing hot dogs. In a pig's eye, you say? There's a new purveyor of pink wienies at the series' shortest venue and its name is Valleydale, a division of Smithfield Foods. Jesse Jones has been gunned down. You remember Valleydale, don't you? Cartoon pigs playing trombone, drum and cymbals back in the day. "Everybody shouts hooray for Valleydale!" The racing connection came later -- title sponsorship of the spring Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway , the Valleydale 500, lasted 11 years, from 1980 through 1991. Jesse Jones hot dogs have been a staple at Martinsville for much longer. Some say they've been a part of the concession fare almost from the beginning, which would have been around 1948. That may or may not be the case, but they've certainly been an essential part of the race weekend experience for decades. The infield concession stand, located near the start/finish line and run by a local booster club, does a brisk business on race weekends. Crewmen and fans can be found lined up throughout the day purchasing hot dogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Officials are hoping that's again the case next week, when the track hosts the Kroger 250 Camping World Truck Series race (March 28, 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and STP 500 Sprint Cup race (March 29, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Other tracks have gone hog-wild with different types of food offerings. Phoenix International Raceway officials unveiled the CARBuretor Crunch for this past race weekend. The deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich came with Cap'n Crunch and caramel on the outside, bacon and bananas on the inside. Fans visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway can partake of the new Brunch Burger, a quarter-pound cheeseburger topped with hash browns, cheese, bacon and egg. It comes on French toast and includes hot maple syrup. But the Martinsville hot dog? It's gone unchanged and unchallenged. Until now. Actually, that's not quite true. The track did switch hot dog vendors several years ago when International Speedway Corp. purchased the facility. New owners, new hot dogs, same $2 price. It caused quite a ruckus. Folks complained. The original hot dogs were quickly brought back. Order was restored. Track officials seem confident that this latest change will satisfy fans and competitors alike. Lessons were learned. I hope they're right. Race fans have adapted to schedule changes, rules changes and how the championship is determined. But when it comes to the Martinsville hot dog, they've proven to be less understanding. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Crew chief change off to promising start for No. 98 team The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is in the midst of its now-annual tight turnaround in August, with just four days separating last Saturday afternoon's event at Michigan from Wednesday night's tilt at Bristol Motor Speedway . It's a quick turn that newly minted points leader Johnny Sauter -- and the series' most recent winner -- doesn't mind making. Sauter and the rest of the truck series regulars will make their traditional midweek stop at the Thunder Valley bullring for Wednesday's UNOH 200 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). With 10 races left in the season, Bristol kicks off what Sauter hopes is a favorable stretch in his bid for a breakthrough truck title as the schedule turns toward fall. "I can't think of a better place to go than Bristol and to be only three, four days away from that is pretty awesome," Sauter said Saturday after notching his first win of the season at Michigan International Speedway . "When I look down the rest of the schedule, I see Vegas, Talladega, Martinsville, Texas, Homestead -- all places that I've won at in the past. ... Having said all that, Bristol's the next one on the list." "I keep telling everyone around me, they're like, 'Championship, championship,' and I said, 'Well, I'm doing it one week at a time.' If you run well and stay out of trouble, you're going to ultimately, hopefully have a shot at the championship. So right now, next thing on my list is Bristol ." Though Sauter's season had been marked by steady performance with just two finishes outside the top 10 in the first 12 races, his ThorSport Racing team recently made a change at crew chief, bringing in Jeff Hensley and moving former crew chief Dennis Connor to teammate Jeb Burton' s crew starting at Michigan. There was no semblance of a major slump -- Sauter finished second in his last race with Connor at Pocono -- but the team still sought an extra edge. The change produced immediate results in just Hensley's eighth day on the job. "It was just a deal where we were really running decent this year, we were consistent but we were just maybe lacking a little bit here and there," said Sauter, who extended his streak of seasons with at least one victory to six. "We hadn't won; I think this is the latest in the season in the last four or five years that I hadn't won a race, so it was tough. Ultimately Dennis Connor did a great job; I have all the respect in the world for Dennis. We talked already about it, and it was just a thing we thought was going to make the whole organization stronger." Hensley, now 1-for-1 atop the pit box for Sauter's No. 98 Toyota, agreed. "I know. I've been where Johnny's at," said Hensley, who was crew chief for Chuck Bown's 1990 championship in what is now the NASCAR Nationwide Series . "Sometimes you've got to do things that maybe shake things up a bit, and good things happen like happened today. I just feel like I'm the most fortunate person in the world right now to be a part of this." Short tracks have long been a sweet spot for the 36-year-old Sauter, but a Bristol victory has eluded him thus far in his his truck career. He finished second at the .533-mile track in 2011 and landed a fourth-place run there last season. Carrying a nine-point lead over ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton and the momentum from his Michigan win bode well for Sauter's chances, but so does a fresh outlook and a fast mount. "I think Jeff's already got that truck pretty well ready to go," Sauter said of his Bristol ride. "It's pretty cool to win our first race out of the gate together, and maybe we can make it two in a row." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After losing lead in closing laps of NNS race, JGR driver leaves Cup race early RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL , Tenn. -- Team owner Joe Gibbs said it was "frustration." Crew chief Dave Rogers said it was "a miscommunication." Driver Kyle Busch ? He wasn't talking, having departed after his car was damaged beyond repair, the result of which left the Joe Gibbs Racing owner with a 36th-place finish in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . It was the fourth consecutive finish of 36th or worse for Busch, who had finished second in three of four NASCAR Sprint Cup races before this latest slide. Sixth in points after this year's Indianapolis stop, Busch has now fallen 11 positions to 17th. Damage from an incident involving his No. 18 Toyota was too severe for repairs, leaving Busch to exit his car with less than 100 laps remaining in the race. Radio conversations between Busch and Rogers appeared to get heated before Busch's departure. "I still don't know what happened," Rogers said of the race-ending incident. "I think we got into the fence and I could hear the spotter say the tires were up, I heard Kyle say something about right-front suspension (but) I couldn't put it together. "I got frustrated with Kyle because I wasn't sure what he was saying; he got frustrated with me because I wasn't fixing the race car. It's Bristol , it's loud, and a lot of things are going on." Busch, who had qualified fourth in the 43-car field, drove into the lead early. But a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 63 dropped him from first to the tail end of the lead-lap cars. Collected in a five-car accident at Lap 125, Busch was unable to crack the top 10 for the remainder of the race. That incident began when Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson made contact in front of Busch. As he slowed to avoid contact, Clint Bowyer got into the back of Busch's car, damaging the left rear. "We were really fast tonight, had a top-four qualifying effort, then we drove up into the lead, thought we were going to have a shot to win it and then we got caught up in someone else's mess early on so everyone's frustrated," Rogers said. "It's been a long month. Emotions just overflowed like they always do at Bristol . It's really no big deal." Rogers said he thought the final incident cut a tire, but his driver said the suspension on the car was broken. "He said, 'No, you didn't fix the problem. The suspension is broke,' " Rogers said. "I said, 'Well, if the suspension is broke then drive it to the truck' … there's nothing you can do about it 50 laps to go in the race. "But he's right. The suspension's broke. That car was not salvageable. We couldn't get it back on the track no matter what we wanted to do. But it was just a miscommunication what we needed to work on." Gibbs said he spoke to both Busch and Rogers after the race. "That's just pro sports," Gibbs said. "Every now and then you get frustrated. "They had three weeks … they were second, second, second. I think the night was totally frustrating. *(Kyle) had a great car and it was a series of circumstances. Something like that happens in pro sports you can get frustrated." Rogers said the heated conversations wouldn't impact his working relationship with his driver. "If Kyle Busch wasn't passionate, I probably wouldn't work for him," he said. "And if I wasn't passionate, Kyle Busch probably wouldn't want me as his crew chief. You've got two passionate people that want to win more than anything. And sometimes that passion gets the best of you. Tonight's that night. Kyle and I are fine. He's still my buddy, I love him to death and I'm very confident he'd tell you the same about me. "We both got frustrated tonight, but it's such a small deal. It really doesn't even factor into the Chase. We have some really good cars sitting on jack stands getting ready to go. All the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing are busting their butts and they've been building better and better cars. Lately, we've had speed in our cars and we're racing our worst stuff. We're saving our good stuff for the Chase." NASCAR.com's Alan Cavanna contributed to this report. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Several drivers still looking for ticket to the Chase lost on late-lap gamble RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL , Tenn. -- Two ends of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spectrum were on the same strategy late in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . On one side, there was two-win Carl Edwards staying out following a Lap 432 caution flag that sent nearly all of the leaders down pit road. The other faction consisted of winless drivers Matt Kenseth , Kyle Larson and Paul Menard , who all came to the same conclusion -- that the opportunity to restart up front and have a real shot at a win was more valuable than getting fresh tires or making adjustments. So it was those four, with Kenseth in the lead on the outside lane, that led the field to green on Lap 434 and set the stage for a dramatic conclusion on a dramatic night in which Joey Logano eventually caught Kenseth as the others slipped back. "It was a discussion," Kenseth said of the dialogue with crew chief Jason Ratcliff about the late call. "We were still talking about it all the way to the cone. Jason told me to pit, and I decided at the last second to stay out. We were looking over some stats this morning and talking and I wasn't sure with the way (Ratcliff) said it ... I just felt like he was wanting a little input from me, so I just stayed out." Kenseth had the backing of his crew chief as well. He radioed that he didn't think the No. 20 team stood a chance to pick up its first win of the season by staying out. "I'm all in, brother," Ratcliff replied. Kenseth's third-place finish matched his best showing of the year on a night where all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars looked strong, but only the No. 20 was running at the end. As for the other winless drivers, Menard and Larson needed a victory for more tangible reasons. They both entered Bristol outside of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field and were -- and remain -- in win-or-else mode. Coming off a 43rd-place finish at Michigan last week, Larson started at the back after wrecking in qualifying and had to drive through the field. He scraped the wall a couple of times, avoided a separate wreck and was running in the top five with a chance at the checkered flag with 50 laps to go. "That is the hardest that I've ever raced," Larson said after the 500-lap event. "I made our whole team have to work really hard with wrecking in qualifying. I had a few run-ins today and ... I guess I'm happy with 12th. That is probably about as good as we were." Between Larson and Menard, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender is in the best position to seriously challenge for a postseason spot. He's 26 points behind Greg Biffle , currently the 16th seed in the Chase Grid, with two regular-season races remaining. It's a tall order to make up, but Larson's strategy for the final two races basically takes points out of the equation -- it's win or nothing. That's exactly why he stayed out late at Bristol , and it's a mindset that will manifest itself next week at Atlanta as well. "I think 26 behind Biffle is a long way to go for two races. Hope for some bad luck for him," Larson said. "But we need to go out there and get a win, like we tried to do tonight." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver of No. 1 leads race-high 148 laps but can't get back out front RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL , Tenn. -- Jamie McMurray has won some of the biggest races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is a former Daytona 500 winner. He has won the Brickyard 400. He's won the Sprint All-Star Race. He's also won the fall race at Charlotte (twice), the summer race at Daytona and has a pair of wins at Talladega. He has not won the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway . Saturday night, he came close. "It's tough because I've gotten to win all the big races so far and this is the one race that's on my bucket list," McMurray said after leading 148 laps before finishing eighth. "If I could win one more race in my career, the night race at Bristol is it." McMurray, 38, was able to hold off the advances of Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Joey Logano (Team Penske) for much of the second half of the 500-lap event. He put four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon a lap down with less than 150 laps remaining. "Dude, that 1 is the leader?" Gordon asked crew chief Alan Gustafson over the radio. "... He's just flying on the bottom (of the track)." McMurray was still leading at Lap 432 when the caution appeared for debris. Because four teams stayed out under the yellow flag, McMurray, who pitted, restarted fifth. He was unable to work his way back to the front in the closing laps. "It really didn't have anything to do with the pit call as much as my car just got really tight the last 100 laps and I was really hanging on for 40 of those laps just staying ahead of Matt and Joey," McMurray said. "It seemed like I could get through lapped traffic a little bit better. But as the top rubbered in the last time I just couldn't rotate the middle like I could early in the race." McMurray jumped three spots in the points standings, to 16th, with the finish. A win would go a long way to securing a bid in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will consist of 16 teams. "Getting to make the Chase, you just want to go run well every week," he said. "It's pretty awesome to lead all those laps tonight and have that good of a car." Much of the credit, he said, goes to crew chief Keith Rodden, the former engineer who took over the helm of the No. 1 team this season. Even if Rodden has a tendency to make wholesale changes the night before a race. "We talked last night in the motorhome lot and we changed everything on our car," McMurray said. "I laughed because I'm not real sure why we practice, because on Saturday night he tends to change a lot of stuff. He does an amazing job to come up with a really nice setup. "That was definitely the best car I've had all year long. It's just about putting the race together all at the right time. And we had the best car, I felt like for the first three quarters of the race." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See where your favorite driver will pit in the Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) MORE: Food City 300 lineup RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live Kyle Busch won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Food City 300 and got his choice of pit stalls for the race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Busch will occupy the pit stall closest to the Turn 1 exit on pit road and will have an opening in front of him. "Rowdy" is not the only driver to have an opening in front of him. Chase Elliott (starting fourth), Erik Jones (starting sixth) and Regan Smith (starting eighth) all have pit stalls with open space in front. Cale Conley has the pit stall closest to the pit road entrance. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Two of his five career Sprint Cup wins at Thunder Valley came in 2009 Kyle Busch is the last driver to have completed a sweep of the Sprint Cup Series events at Bristol Motor Speedway . He did so in 2009, leading 446 of a possible 1,003 laps en route to the sweep. Busch is not the only driver to sweep both Sprint Cup events at Thunder Valley. Others that have done so: Fred Lorenzen (1964), David Pearson (1968), Bobby Allison (1972), Cale Yarborough (1974, 1976, 1977), Richard Petty (1975), Darrell Waltrip (1981, 1982, 1983), Dale Earnhardt (1985, 1987), Rusty Wallace (2000) and Kurt Busch (2003).