It’s Bristol weekend, baby!
There’s no NASCAR action in “Thunder Valley” today, aside from the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series.
But we’re here to continue our weekly look at memorable moments from each track that the NASCAR Cup Series would have visited if not for the race’s postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If there’s one track that’s produced its share of memorable moments, it’s Bristol Motor Speedway.
Here are the five most memorable moments from Bristol.
1. Intimidator vs Ice Man, Part II (1999)
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Same track. Same drivers. Same lap.
Slightly different outcomes.
Like four years earlier, the 1999 night race at Bristol came down to Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Terry Labonte.
Like in 1995, Labonte led at the white flag.
Unlike 1995, Labonte didn’t make it back to the checkered flag, thanks to Earnhardt’s attempt to “rattle” Labonte’s “cage.”
2. Intimidator vs Ice Man, Part 1 (1995)
Earlier this year, Erik Jones and his team re-created a Victory Lane photo of Labonte and his team from 1995.
Because the noses of both their cars were demolished and in Victory Lane.
Jones’ car was damaged in a wreck-filled Busch Clash at Daytona.
Labonte’s car received its damage courtesy of Earnhardt’s attempt to pass him for the lead coming to the checkered flag at Bristol.
Labonte slid across the finish line and plowed into the outside wall.
At least Labonte has a win to smile about.
3. Jeff Gordon ends winless streak (2002)
Time for some more rhyming.
In 1997, Jeff Gordon performed a bump-and-run on Rusty Wallace coming to the checkered flag and won the spring race at Bristol.
Five years later, in nearly the same spot, Gordon moved Wallace out of the way to take the lead with three laps to go in the Bristol night race.
Wallace was unable to get back to Gordon, who went on to win his first race of the year, ending what was at the time the longest winless streak of his career at 31 races.
4. Elliott Sadler sends Wood Brothers back to victory lane (2001)
Eighty races is a long time.
That’s how long it took for Elliott Sadler to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series win.
Sadler did it on March 25, 2001, driving for the oldest team in NASCAR: Wood Brothers Racing.
After starting 38th in a backup car due to a wreck in practice, Sadler led the final 70 laps and beat John Andretti.
Sadler’s win over Andretti, who was piloting Richard Petty’s No. 43 car, was the Wood Brother’s first Cup win since 1993.
There also was some late-race drama. On the final lap, Jeff Gordon spun Tony Stewart in the last turn while trying to pass him on the inside.
Stewart wasn’t having it. Once they were on pit road, Stewart retaliated by turning Gordon’s car.
5) Matt DiBenedetto‘s Big Night (2019)
But it happened last year after the Bristol night race as many fans stuck around to voice their approval for Matt DiBenedetto.
DiBenedetto, who had spent the majority of his career with underfunded race teams, finished second to Denny Hamlin.
That was after DiBenedetto, driving Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Toyota, led a race-high 93 laps, only to be passed by Hamlin with 12 laps to go. DiBenedetto suffered minor damage when he made contact with Ryan Newman, which helped Hamlin catch and pass DiBenedetto.
A few weeks later, DiBenedetto’s performance and perseverance would be rewarded when he was announced as the new driver for the Wood Brothers.