CHARLOTTE, N.C — Memories made at Bristol Motor Speedway have long been passed down from one generation to the next.
That’s certainly true for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who spent years watching his dad conquer the famed halfmile before scoring a few triumphs of his own in Bristol.
With those memories in mind, it made perfect sense when Earnhardt unveiled a special gold paint scheme outside his bar Whiskey River in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. The No. 88 Chevrolet that Earnhardt will drive in the Irwin Tools Night Race will carry a decal marking the 50th anniversary of the s p e e d w a y.
Earnhardt ran his hand over the sleek machine, stopping to admire the Amp logo on the hood.
“I like this car. I think it looks good,” Earnhardt said. “I think it’ll look good under the lights, especially with that gold.”
Earnhardt will be aiming to land the machine in Victory Lane, a place his family is quite familiar with. His father won nine Cup races at BMS while Junior swept the weekend back in 2004, winning both the Nationwide and Cup race.
“I think my best memory is definitely when we won those two races there,” Junior said. “I had a lot of great ones as a kid watching from the roof of a van from the infield. I think I started going there in ’84 and saw the two races in ’85 with the big wrecks in (turns) three and four that took out about half the field.
“And I was there when the old man (won) without any power steering.”
For the folks at BMS, teaming up with Junior was a major coup. The racetrack hopes to start a new streak of sellouts after a disappointing turnout for the Food City 500.
Jerry Caldwell, general manager of BMS, said this is the first time to his knowledge that a track has ever celebrated its 50th anniversary with a paint scheme. And having Junior as a partner is the best possible scenario.
“As a track promoter, who else would you pick,” Caldwell asked. “Not a slight to anyone else, but we’re all going to pick him. There’s nothing better than to be able to put your logo on Dale Jr.’s car and run it during your race.”
Caldwell said his team is doing a bang-up job of selling seats for the upcoming event, which is considered by drivers to be one of the crown jewels on the Sprint Cup schedule.
“We’re probably going to have to announce in the next couple days that some big sections are starting to sell out,” Caldwell said. “We’re probably going to be close to a sellout if we don’t get all the way there. We’re very encouraged.”
The strong sales didn’t come as much of a surprise to Earnhardt, who said that Bristol has always been his favorite racetrack.
“A lot of great races there,” he said. “There’s no other track like it, which blows me away with the rate they’ve built racetracks over the last 10 years that nobody has tried to duplicate the success that Bristol has.
“It’s truly a phenomenal event for us and one of the toughest tickets.”