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Food City 500 weekend approaching at high speed

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 5, 2019 at 7:36 PM

The Food City 500 weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway is just a month away.

Action includes Bush’s Beans Pole Day on Friday, April 5, highlighted by the 6:10 p.m. Cup Series qualifying.

Saturday is the busiest day of the week with NASCAR Cup Series practice, Xfinity Series qualifying, the Alsco 300 race for the Xfinity Series and the Zombie Auto 150 for the NASCAR K&N Series.

The weekend is capped off by the Monster Energy Cup Series Food City 500 on Sunday, April 7.

It is the first short-track race of the season. Last season’s race produced 13 caution periods and 18 lead changes, the final one when Kyle Busch bumped Kyle Larson out of the way with five laps to go.

The Cup Series heads to Phoenix this Sunday, where the action is usually intense on the flat, 1-mile track, which is often mislabeled a short track.

It’s the best track on the circuit for defending race champion Kevin Harvick, who holds the track record with nine Phoenix wins. Only three other drivers have multiple wins at Phoenix: Jimmie Johnson has four and Ryan Newman and Kyle Busch, the most recent winner, have two each.

Defending series champion Joey Logano, who held off Brad Keselowski to win at Las Vegas, has one Phoenix win, as does Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch.

It could be a good track for Hendrick Motorsports to bounce back. In addition to Johnson’s four wins, Chase Elliott and Arizona native Alex Bowman have traditionally run strong at Phoenix.

ROWDY IN MUSIC CITY

Kyle Busch announced last week he will be competing in the 34th annual All-American 400 at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway on Sunday, April 14.

The Late Model race, which has been reduced to 300 laps this year, has a rich history that includes past winners like NASCAR Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace and current Cup star Chase Elliott.

Busch has one previous start in the race, leading 52 laps before being involved in an accident and ending with a 27th-place finish. Ross Kenseth, son of former NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth, won the race. Busch has several other wins from major asphalt Late Model races around the country. He has wins in Florida’s Snowball Derby, the Winchester 400 in Indiana, the Oxford 250 in Maine and the Winter Showdown in California.

“The last few years the race has been held the same day as Cup Series events, so I haven’t been able to go, but with last year’s event washed out and being rescheduled for Sunday after the Richmond Cup race, it works out for me to go and race,” Busch said in a statement.

On another note, there have been no updates about plans of BMS officials operating the Nashville track in the future.

STEWART LEADING POINTS

Tony Stewart, who recently was in Johnson City for the grand opening of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, continues to lead the United Speed Contest Sanction national point standings.

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion and former IndyCar champion, called it cool to be leading the points in the winged sprint car series.

He led every lap earlier this season at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, and then doubled up in the Sunshine State on Feb. 22 with a win at Southern Raceway in Milton. Stewart holds a 14-point lead over New Jersey racer Davie Franek in the current standings.

The USCS series races this weekend at Chatham Speedway outside Ruston, Louisiana.

LOCAL DIRT NEWS

Clay Valley Speedway, the former Lonesome Pine Raceway in Coeburn, has an open practice scheduled for Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. Another open practice is scheduled for next Saturday, March 16. Clay Valley’s grand opening as a dirt track officially takes place March 23 with the first races scheduled.

It’s the same schedule for Kingsport Speedway. The three-eighths-mile concrete track is holding an open practice Saturday and has its season opener slated for March 23.

Volunteer Speedway, right off Interstate 81 in Bulls Gap, had its drivers meeting Saturday with Fastrak leader Stan Lester, who will be promoting the races with owners Joe and Phyllis Loven this season. Plans are to announce the 2019 schedule soon, possibly this week.

One new initiative to attract fans is a “free county night” each month in 2019. The track will take counties around the speedway and at the end of each month fans from that county will get in free (grandstands only).

Email Jeff Birchfield at [email protected]

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