There have been so many memorable finishes at iconic Bristol Motor Speedway during its 60-plus year history, that narrowing down the wildest finishes to a top 10 list is quite the herculean task.
With more than 123 NASCAR Cup Series races and counting to choose from, along with many more races showcased in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series around the all-concrete (and sometimes dirt) high-banked half-mile oval that’s been called the “Holy Grail of Short Tracks,” and you can clearly understand the dilemma.
Simply put, this versatile, multi-purpose entertainment venue has seen some things. And it quite literally seems to always deliver intensely compelling racing action.
Bristol Motor Speedway’s unique layout with steep high-banks in a .533-mile distance produces tight quarters racing on a short track that races like a superspeedway. NASCAR Cup Series cars often reach speeds of more than 130 mph. Put 40 high-revving stock cars on the track at the same time, and well, you get the picture.
Nine-time BMS winner Rusty Wallace once said racing at Bristol is like turning 40 fighter jets loose in a gymnasium.
Over the years, sparks have flown, tempers have flared, bumpers have been banged and dreams have been dashed. At the same time, winners have emerged, champions have been crowned and above all, mayhem and chaos have ruled supreme.
There have been a lot of top 10 lists in BMS history, but this one attempts to compile the 10 wildest finishes in BMS history. Interestingly, a few of them have happened recently. Racing at Bristol just seems to get wilder when the NASCAR Playoffs come to town, or when track officials create a temporary dirt racing surface.
According to a committee of Bristol experts, including journalists, racing historians and track officials, the following are the Top 10 Wildest NASCAR Finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history. As you review these 10, you might think of a few that would be on your list that aren’t documented here, and that’s the fun of this exercise. There’s just so many wild finishes to choose from. But remember, with another Bass Pro Shops Night Race weekend coming Sept. 15-17, there will certainly be three more wild finishes for consideration to add to the list once the smoke clears from that thrilling three nights of action.
No. 10, 2013 UNOH 200
The 2013 UNOH 200 was dominated by Timothy Peters and Chase Elliott as the pair led 188 of 200 laps. However, neither driver would see the checkered as late race cautions brought eventual race winner Kyle Busch into the mix. Busch, whose 7 laps led were all within the final 8 laps, barely beat out Peters for the victory as the two tangled causing Peters’ truck to slide across the finish line.
No., 9, 2008 Sharpie 500
The two most dominant drivers of the 2008 Sharpie 500 were Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Edwards started on pole and led 53 of the first 54 laps until Busch took the lead at lap 55. Busch held that lead for 415 laps by about two and half seconds before a caution with 38 to go came out. Bunching the field back up, Edwards now sat behind Busch to make his move. Edwards used the “bump and run” to move Busch and win the race. After the race, Busch came alongside Edwards hitting him on the driver side multiple times. As Busch drove away, Edwards turned down and spun out the #18 car, to the roar of cheers from fans.
No. 8, 2013 Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300
The Kyle and Kyle show, Vol. 1, referring to finishes regarding Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson, got its first episode at the Jeff Foxworthy Grit Chips 300 in 2013. Larson, in only his fourth Xfinity start, took on the likes of Busch, Kevin Harvick, and defending Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski. Spending much of his day in the top 10, Larson found himself battling Busch, who swept all three NASCAR series races at Bristol in 2010, in the closing laps to try and claim his first victory. However, experience played out, and a thrilling final few laps of beating and banging were showcased and when the two stars rumbled to the finish line, Busch edged out the young rookie by a fender.
No. 7, 1997 Food City 500
The first installment of Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon on-track entanglements happened at the 1997 Food City 500. Wallace and his No. 2 “Blue Deuce” passed Gordon’s No. 24 “Rainbow Warrior” Chevy with 85 laps to go and looked poised to take a sixth Bristol win. A caution with 50 laps to go jumbled the field back up and Wallace pulled away yet again. However, thanks to some lapped traffic, Gordon found himself on the back bumper of Wallace with about 15 laps to go. Try as he might, Gordon couldn’t get his car around Wallace, until the last lap when the eventual 1997 Cup Series Champion used the famed bump and run to get around Wallace for the win. Wallace managed to hold on to his sliding car and guide it across the line to edge out Terry Labonte for second.
No. 6, 2022 Food City Dirt Race
After jumping out to the lead on lap one of the 2022 Food City Dirt Race, Chase Briscoe maintained that position until a blown right rear tire on lap 50 caused him to spin out. Briscoe worked his way back up through the field to retake the lead when rain began to fall over the dirt-converted half-mile. After some initial confusion due to a pitstop by Briscoe, Tyler Reddick inherited the lead. Reddick led the next 99 laps with a charging Briscoe hot on his tail. Needing a big move to take the win, Briscoe went for it, and drove his No. 14 SHR machine deep into Turn 3 on the last lap and made contact with Reddick’s Chevy, spinning them both out. Kyle Busch, who had been running in the top five most of the day, kept charging and at the last instant passed both cars as they attempted to recover. Reddick got his car back on track and was approaching the finish line just as Busch’s No. 18 streaked by to take the checkered flag. Briscoe fell to 22nd in the final order.
No. 5, 2021 Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Fireworks erupted as Kevin Harvick pushed the No. 9 car of Chase Elliott down pit road after the conclusion of the 2021 Bass Pro Shops Night Race. The two drivers emerged from their cars and immediately approached each other. Fans had just witnessed a 30-lap battle between the two drivers until some contact resulted in a cut tire for Elliott. After being forced to pit and repair the tire, an angered Elliott seemed to stalk Harvick the rest of the night, opening the door for Kyle Larson to fight for the victory. Larson managed to get around Harvick with a few laps remaining, despite Harvick trying his best to hook the driver of the No. 5 Chevy in one last gasp attempt. While Larson grabbed his first Bristol Cup victory, Elliott and Harvick sorted out their frustrations on pit road in an intense and often heated finger-pointing discussion that at first had to be broken up by NASCAR officials.
No. 4, 2020 Food City Supermarket Heroes 500
This race is possibly the greatest finish in NASCAR history that fans were not able to witness live. While COVID-19 restricted fans from coming to watch the race in person, those who watched from home enjoyed a thrilling battle to the end. Chase Elliott had won both stages and appeared to have the car to beat and was battling with Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. Interestingly, none of those drivers would take home the Bristol Gladiator Sword on this afternoon. With 10 laps to go, Elliott and Logano passed Hamlin for the lead, but the momentum slid the three drivers up the track and as Logano made contact with the wall, Hamlin couldn’t slow down in time, spinning and bringing out a caution. Elliott, Logano and Busch restarted first through third respectively. Brad Keselowski passed Busch for third on the restart and with two laps to go, Elliott and Logano were battling for the lead once again and made contact, sending both cars sliding up into turn 3 and into the wall, allowing Keselowski to streak by and grab the victory. As Keselowski celebrated in victory lane, Elliott and Logano had an animated discussion on pit road.
No. 3, 1999 Night Race
The second episode of Dale Earnhardt vs Terry Labonte ended in a similar fashion as the first that took place four years earlier. While neither driver led a lap in the first 299, Labonte took the lead at lap 300 and it became a battle between “The Iceman” and “The Intimidator”. No other driver led a lap for the remainder of the race. With 11 to go, Labonte, who was leading, was spun out by Darrell Waltrip after the caution had come out. After taking four new tires, Labonte restarted fifth as Earnhardt led with five to go. Taking the white flag, Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt. Then, as the cars approached Turn 2 on the final lap, Earnhardt sent Labonte’s Chevy around, leaving Earnhardt a clear track ahead to take the checkered flag. Labonte finished ninth. In BMS Victory Lane, Earnhardt, who was hearing boos of disapproval from the thousands of fans attending that night, said, “I didn’t really mean to turn him around; meant to rattle his cage though.” Labonte, who had seen that movie before in 1995, sarcastically responded with, “He never has any intention on taking anyone out, it just happens that way.”
No. 2, 2021 Food City 300
The final regular season race of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series ended in dramatic fashion at Bristol Motor Speedway. Battling for the regular season points championship and the win, A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric put on an amazing performance for the fans in a two lap shootout. Restarting 1-2, Cindric got the better start over Allmendinger but as they approached turns 3 and 4, Allmendinger slid up into Cindric, allowing for Justin Allgaier to take the lead briefly. Allgaier then drove hard into Turn 1 and bumped into Cindric allowing Allmendinger to get a run and pull ahead. After the contact, Cindric regained momentum and drove it in hard coming off Turn 4, making contact with Allmendinger as the two slid across the finish line as the checkered flag waved. Allmendinger took the win and the regular season points just ahead of Cindric in second. Allmendinger’s car suffered major damage after the finish and the car wasn’t able to make it to Victory Lane. Allmendinger was checked and released from the infield care center and walked to Victory Lane where he was presented his trophy and BMS Gladiator Sword.
No. 1, 1995 Night Race
The first episode of Dale Earnhardt vs Terry Labonte at BMS is an instant classic. After spinning out Rusty Wallace early in the race, Earnhardt was black-flagged and sent to the rear of the field. Earnhardt then charged through the field to take the lead and battle with a handful of drivers. Labonte ran the more consistent race, spending the majority of it in the top five. With less than 100 laps to go, Earnhardt found himself sitting outside the top 10, while Labonte fought for the lead with Dale Jarrett. Labonte passed Jarrett with 69 to go and Earnhardt had finally made his way back into the top 10. Earnhardt charged through the field in his damaged No. 3 Chevy as the laps clicked away. Slowed by lapped cars, Labonte lost his one second lead in the final two laps and coming off turn 4 on the last lap, Earnhardt got into the back of Labonte, spinning his No. 5 Chevy across the line and destroying the nose of the car as it pinballed off the retaining walls. Labonte’s car was smoking and spewing fluids as it sat crumpled in Victory Lane for the post-race photos. Meanwhile, Earnhardt and Wallace were catching up in the pits regarding their early race encounter. Wallace tried to get Earnhardt’s attention and finally tossed a water bottle toward Earnhardt and it bounced off the Intimidator’s head. That move riled Earnhardt and the two were face to face before finally being separated by crew members and race officials.
The weekend begins with Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and defending winner Chandler Smith battling for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Thursday night in the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics (Sept. 15, 9 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio). The rising stars in the ARCA Menards Series also will take on the challenging half-mile bullring in the Bush’s Beans 200 as part of the Thursday night doubleheader (Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m., FS1, MRN Radio).
On Friday, Sparks are sure to fly in the Food City 300, as NASCAR Xfinity Series favorites A.J. Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Ty Gibbs and Josh Berry will be trying to lock in their Playoff positions in the season’s final regular season race (Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio). The stars of the NASCAR Cup Series will take to the track on Saturday for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio), you’ll get to see all of your favorite drivers racing hard to advance in the first elimination race of the Playoffs.
To purchase tickets, please visit www.bristolmotorspeedway.com or call the BMS Ticket Sales Center at (866) 415-4158. Fans can also purchase tickets at any Food City location through Sept. 6.