It’s Piney Flats, baby! (Or would have been, if speedway’s founders stuck with original plan)

J. H. Osborne • Aug 14, 2018 at 1:20 PM

This week’s Tuesday Trivia: Bristol Motor Speedway.

According to the BMS website: 

• The first proposed site for the speedway was in Piney Flats, seven miles south of the track’s current location. But, according to Carl Moore, who built the track along with Larry Carrier and R.G. Pope, the idea met local opposition. The entrepreneurs were on record stating that if anyone not in favor of the construction and existence of such a facility in the small community came forward to express their opposition, they would find another location. Some local citizens did just that, so the track that could have been called Piney Flats International Speedway eventually was built on a dairy farm to the north on Highway 11-E in Bristol.

• The men were inspired by Charlotte Motor Speedway, but they wanted “a more intimate setting” and built a half-mile track, which reduced the amount of land needed.

• Work began in 1960 and it took approximately one year to finish what was then called Bristol International Speedway. Carrier, Moore and Pope scratched many of their ideas for the track on envelopes and brown paper bags. The land and construction costs totaled about $600,000.

• Seating capacity for the very first NASCAR race at BMS, held on July 30, 1961, was 18,000.

• Country music star Brenda Lee, who was 17 at the time, sang the national anthem for the first race at the track.

• In 1976, the track was sold to Lanny Hester and Gary Baker, and in 1978 it was renamed Bristol International Raceway.

• In 1982, Hester sold his half of the speedway to Warner Hodgdon. Barely a year later, Hodgdon completed the 100 percent purchase of BIR and named Carrier general manager. In 1985, as a result of many of his other businesses hitting hard times, Hodgdon filed for bankruptcy. Afterward, Carrier formally took possession of the speedway and covered all outstanding debts.

• In 1996, Carrier sold the speedway to Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., at a purchase price of $26 million. At the time of the sale, the facility seated approximately 71,000.

• On May 28, 1996, the track’s name was officially changed to Bristol Motor Speedway. By August of 1996, 15,000 seats had been added, bringing the seating capacity to 86,000.

• Less than a year later, BMS was the largest sports arena in Tennessee and one of the largest in the country, seating 118,000. The speedway also boasted 22 new skyboxes.

• By August 1998, BMS had more than 131,000 grandstand seats and 100 skyboxes. Improvements since Smith became owner totaled more than $50 million.

• By March of 2000, seating reached 147,000.

• In 2002, a new backstretch grandstand increased the track’s seating capacity to an estimated 155,000. The backstretch includes 52 luxury skybox suites.

• By August of 2005, construction was complete on the last 35 luxury suites at BMS, establishing the exterior look fans still see today.

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