Construction of Bristol Motor Speedway began in 1960 and nearly a year later the track held its first NASCAR race with Jack Smith and co-driver Johnny Allen winning a 500-lap event on July 30, 1961.
The cost of construction was approximately $600,000.
Larry Carrier, who founded the track along with Carl Moore and R.G. Pope, sold the facility to O. Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports in January 1996 for $26 million.
Through the years, SMI continued to upgrade the facility with state-of-the-art grandstands and the world’s largest four-sided video screen among the many amenities.
In 2000 and ’01, the track was covered with dirt for a series of races and in 2016, the infield of the .533-mile concrete oval was turned into a football field as a game between Virginia Tech and Tennessee drew 156,990 spectators. It was the largest college football crowd in history.
So, as the track celebrates its 60th anniversary, officials are pulling out all the stops once again, covering the racing surface with dirt to host a full month of dirt-track racing from March 15-April 24.
The highlight, and main reason for the return of dirt racing to Bristol, will be the first NASCAR Cup Series race on a dirt track in more than 50 years.
The March 28 Food City Dirt Race will be the seventh event of the Cup Series season and the only one on dirt. The weekend will also include the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on March 27.
But instead of covering the track with dirt for only one weekend, Bristol officials are going big.
Action gets under way March 15-20 with the Bristol Dirt Nationals, which will feature six nights of racing for eight classes of dirt-track cars, culminating with a $50,000-to-win super late model race on March 20.
The Bristol Bash will feature the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series and DIRTcar UMP modifieds on April 8-10, while the month concludes with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and Super DIRTcar Series big-block modifieds sharing the bill for the Bristol Throwdown on April 22-24.
THE LAST TIME
The last NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt was run on Sept. 30, 1970, at North Carolina State Fairgrounds Speedway in Raleigh, N.C.
Richard Petty took the lead on the 89th lap and never looked back en route to the 117th victory of his career. He earned $1,100 for driving a Plymouth to victory in the 100-mile event on the half-mile dirt track.
Petty took the checkered flag a whopping three laps ahead of runner-up Neil Castles.
Point leader Bobby Isaac finished third with James Hylton and Cecil Gordon rounding out the top five.