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NASCAR WCUP: Bristol Motor Speedway: NASCAR's Coliseum

26 August 2000

By David Treffer
The Auto Channel
One Thousand years from now, archeologists unearthing Bristol Motor Speedway will probably assume that they have uncovered the North American version of Rome's Coliseum. No doubt they will compare the chariot races in ancient Rome to the modern-day chariot battles at Bristol.

NASCAR's most famous "half-mile" is also the nosiest. Ear-plug vendors must salivate when the two Bristol week-ends arrive. The track, built in a valley between two mountain tops was noisy before Bruton Smith encircled the facility. Expanding the seating capacity to host 125,000 spectators required Smith to build up. As in almost straight up. Climbing to the top row of the stadium is no small feat in itself. Some fans joke that they bring along extra oxygen bottles as they assault the summit. None the less the view from the very top is amazingly clear. The one thing that no one can escape is the noise. It has nowhere to go but up. The acoustical sound meter has been known to register in the mid 110's during the race.

The reverberations of the exhaust note from 43 Winston Cup racecars is truly indescribable. It is sensory overload. Combine the noise with the close quarter battles that ensue during any Bristol 500 lap race and you have racing nirvana. The problem is determining which battle that you want to watch. Borrowing a line from Richard Petty describing racing at Bristol "Their is no where to hide." One can only imagine the actual imagery of being in the middle of a pack of racecars at Bristol only to have somebody in front of you "lose it." The ensuing crunching and bashing of sheet metal combined with the acrid tire and brake smoke is all part of the show at Bristol.

Avoiding the carnage at Bristol requires skill and a lot of luck. The past two fall Bristol races have not been kind to eventual Winston Cup Champions. Defending Winston Cup Champion Dale Jarrett's 38th place finish was his worst finish since the season-opening race at Daytona. Jarrett escaped from the 1999 fall race at Bristol still holding the lead in the standings but the team was required to do some major re-grouping for the final stretch run to the championship.

So what will current Winston Cup points leader Bobby Labonte's strategy require. Labonte responding to the question about Bristol "Try and stay out of trouble. A finish in the top 10 will be welcomed news. Bristol is so tight that you have to really work with your spotter." Labonte's spotter along with 42 other spotters will be working to help each other and try and stay out of each other's way. At Bristol that goal is nice to strive for but is usually thrown out the window in the first 50 laps.

So pack your bag of oxygen, grab your earplugs and hold on. It is quite the show.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.