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Bristol race week can't come at a better time

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 9, 2018 at 7:36 PM

It’s Food City 500 race week at Bristol Motor Speedway and it couldn’t have come at a better time for NASCAR.

After an early season highlighted by strung-out racing at the intermediate tracks, the Monster Energy Cup Series will get back to the close quarters action on Bristol’s high-banked, short track. It presents different sets of challenges for the drivers and teams to contend with, but something they and the fans are looking forward to.

The Food City 500 will cap off a weekend of racing action in the area that also includes a major event at the Volunteer Speedway dirt track.

Bush’s Beans Pole Day is set for Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Fans can get into see qualifying for free with the receipt of two cans of Bush’s Beans purchased at their local Food City store. It is followed by Food City Race Night, which this year features Kyle Busch, who swept races at BMS last August, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, driver of the famed No. 43 car and defending NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr.

Legendary crew chief and FOX Sports analyst Larry McReynolds and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton will serve as MC’s for the event. It features a question-and-answer session with team owner Richard Childress and his Xfinity Series drivers Matt Tifft, Shane Lee and Daniel Hemric.

Perhaps, the best deal of the weekend for fans is Saturday, which features the NASCAR Xfinity Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 and the NASCAR K&N Series Zombie Auto 150, which is 25 laps longer than previously scheduled races.

The main event is Sunday’s Food City 500, where seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson comes in as the defending race champion. Traditionally not one of his best tracks, Johnson will be looking forward to getting to the short track where the No. 48 Chevrolet could be more competitive with the Ford of Kevin Harvick and the Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. than the larger tracks. Johnson has a 10-month winless streak, dating back to last June at Dover.

Kyle Busch will come in as the pre-race favorite, fresh off a win in a Sunday’s race at Texas and sweeping Truck Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series races at Bristol last August.

MUD SLINGERS

Volunteer Speedway hosts one of its major events Saturday night with the sixth annual Scott Sexton Memorial for the Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals Series.

The featured Super Late Model race is 52 laps in honor of the car number the Pigeon Forge racer used prior to his 2013 death following a long illness.

Also on the program is a $1,500-to-win race for the Crate Late Model division and features for the Sportsman Late Model, Modified Street and Classic divisions.

LABONTE RACING IN EUROPE

Former NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte announced plans Monday to drive the No. 18 RDV Competition team Toyota full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

“Joining the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is a great opportunity,” Labonte said. “The testing we did with the RDV team gives me a great advantage. Having the opportunity to represent Yacco as a sponsor on a global level just adds to the excitement, and I look forward to all the growth and new opportunities this could bring.”

The NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee made his debut in the series last year with a 10th-place finish at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, England.

“It is a huge milestone for the Whelen Euro Series to welcome an American champion of Bobby’s caliber to contend for the title,” said Jerome Galpin, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series President and CEO. “This is another sign of the international appeal the series has delivered. We are proud to have a strong international lineup of 30 drivers and teams.”

Labonte is one of four drivers to win championships in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (2000) and NASCAR Xfinity Series (1991). He won 21 races at NASCAR’s highest level, including three crown jewel races – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. 

The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series history kicks off this weekend in Valencia, Spain with four sprint races on the 4-kilometer Circuit Ricardo Tormo.

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