BRISTOL, Tenn — It’s Bristol Baby. The night race at Tennessee coliseum is always an industry favorite. Between those on the inside of the fence or outside of it, when the nights come on for the annual NASCAR Cup Series visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains, it brings out grins.
That’s until the green flag drops on the 500 lap affair. Then those grins turn to winces, then frowns. More times than not, there’s one driver smiling in the end while a few may come to blows after racing stock cars in a gymnasium.
“I just love this place,” was echoed throughout the media center, pit road and garage area on Friday. Not one driver said that they didn’t like it when the come here for the night race.
“It’s my favorite track,” said several.
“This race just means more,” said more.
Well, for one driver, Bristol truly does mean more.
Long before he started racing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Chase Elliott developed a special affinity for Bristol Motor Speedway and the Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
“Yeah, I think Bristol is the one that kind of has that asterisk next to it for me, just because the environment here is so cool,” Elliott said on Friday before Cup practice. “This fall race, at night, 500 laps—this was one of the events that, when I was a kid, it was larger than life.
“You couldn’t get a ticket for this thing for five years. It was just one of those events that everyone wanted to be at, and if you weren’t there or you weren’t talking about it in the early 2000’s, you weren’t living is how I thought it was.”
In fact, the Night Race helped shape Elliott’s decision to follow in the footsteps of his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.
“When I look back at this event and what I remember of it, this was one of the races that made me want to be a race car driver, honestly,” Elliott said.
“The environment here is unmatched, and this event is special. I don’t see another date or track on our schedule that can rival what this environment is on Saturday night in August or September.”
Elliott has made 12 Cup Series starts here, 6 of which occurring in the night race. One of those was the 2020 All-Star race to which he won. In the points paying races, he’s 0-for-11. It’s not like he’s not been close before though however.
Elliott was 3rd in 2018, 5th in 2019, 7th in 2020 and while he was 25th last year, he had a run-in with Kevin Harvick which cut down a tire and forced him to have an unscheduled pit stop while running in the top 2. Elliott led 129 laps last year.
Now, he’s back and ready to earn the Coliseum sword after 500 laps of hard racing on Saturday night. He’ll have his work cut out for him in starting 23rd.