Wow, time sure does fly when you are having fun.
Locally owned and operated supermarket chain Food City, with headquarters in Abingdon, Virginia, started its Bristol Spring Race sponsorship in 1992, and in figuratively the blink of an eye is now celebrating its milestone 30th anniversary as one of the sport’s most tenured entitlements. Food City’s Bristol sponsorship is the second-longest on the NASCAR Cup circuit, behind only the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
During the past 30 years, the Food City races have showcased it all: impressive winning streaks, first-time winners, dominating performances, new car debuts, side-by-side battles, dazzling backflips, driver skirmishes, fender-rubbing feuds, crashes, bump-n-run maneuvers, impounded racecars, milestone victories, moving tributes, family spats and the world’s best drivers getting down and dirty on the red Tennessee clay.
“We are so blessed to have such a passionate partner like Food City who has become more like family to all of us here at Bristol Motor Speedway during the past three decades,” said Jerry Caldwell, president of Bristol Motor Speedway. “It’s rare in professional sports to have a sponsorship that becomes such a perfect fit with a longstanding commitment and this one with Food City has definitely achieved that status. We look forward to many more years of creating wow moments with our friends at Food City.”
Said Steve Smith, Food City president and CEO: “We’re proud to be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of our Food City title sponsorships here at Bristol Motor Speedway. We would like to thank our loyal customers, associates and vendor partners for making this partnership possible through their continued support of our company and NASCAR motorsports.”
In celebration of this impressive milestone, below are the results, key moments, thrilling finishes and amazing memories from each of the spring Cup Series races at BMS sponsored by Food City, listed in chronological order. As you take a look back at the drama, intensity and excitement generated during this great event, you’ll better understand Food City’s steadfast dedication to the sport and why NASCAR nation has had so many reasons to cheer at The Last Great Colosseum.
1992: Alan Kulwicki was the first driver to celebrate in victory lane as a Food City 500 winner. Food City founder Jack Smith congratulated Kulwicki on his victory that day as the grocery chain embarked on its sponsorship of a NASCAR event, expanding from its beginnings in the sport, which included sponsoring Food City Family Race Night starting in August 1987.
1993: When Rusty Wallace won the 1993 Food City 500, he provided the fans with a memorable salute to popular driver Alan Kulwicki by performing his patented “Polish Victory Lap.” Many winning drivers did the same in upcoming races to show their respect for the late 1992 NASCAR Cup champ.
1994: Running Hoosier tires in a car formerly owned by Kulwicki, Geoff Bodine had dominated most of the race. However, a late caution flag put him a lap down and opened the door for Dale Earnhardt Sr. to rumble on to the victory. It was the Intimidator’s fifth and final victory in the Bristol Spring Race, and his first in a Food City winner’s circle.
1995: NASCAR’s new kid on the block, Jeff Gordon, powered his No. 24 DuPont Chevy to the victory in convincing fashion. It was his first Bristol victory in the Cup Series and ultimately led to his first NASCAR Cup championship crown. Veteran driver Darrell Waltrip, once a winner of a record seven-straight Bristol victories, posted a top five finish in the race.
1996: Jeff Gordon goes back-to-back at the Food City 500. He was named the official winner by NASCAR on lap 342 after soaking rains moved into the area.
1997: Proving that the famed Bristol bump-n-run isn’t limited to only the Night Race, Jeff Gordon pulled the oft-used Bristol maneuver on Rusty Wallace in 1997 to take the victory. Wallace had led the race for most of the day, but Gordon was charging, picking his way through traffic. Gordon ultimately caught Wallace in the closing laps and used his bumper to get around the Penske driver in turn three on the final lap. Despite wobbling up the track after the contact, Wallace managed to regain control quickly and bring his No. 2 Ford in for a second-place finish.
1998: Rusty Wallace led the most laps, but Jeff Gordon ultimately took the checkered flag, capping his amazing streak of consecutive Food City 500 victories at four. Terry Labonte, who led 115 laps, finished second in his Kellogg’s Chevy.
1999: Rusty Wallace ran off and left the field to take another Food City 500 victory. The bigger story was that fourth-place finisher John Andretti’s Richard Petty Enterprises Pontiac was impounded after the race by NASCAR officials to check the engine. Andretti’s car was later cleared and awarded the top five finish.
2000: Bristol dominator Rusty Wallace took the victory, his race-best sixth in the Spring Race and the milestone 50th of his lengthy career.
2001: Rising star Elliott Sadler broke through for his first Food City 500 victory. More importantly, the race finish was a throwback, as legendary teams the Wood Brothers and Petty Enterprises finished 1-2 in a Cup race for the first time since 1977.
2002: A rivalry grew into a bitter feud at Bristol when Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer tangled on track for the second time in as many seasons. After a dust up in Phoenix in 2001 where Busch and Spencer tangled for the first time, Busch returned the favor a year later at Bristol in April, spinning Spencer en route to the Food City 500 victory. After their Bristol tussle, the two continued to spar during several races in 2002 and into 2003. Their multi-year war remains one of the most celebrated feuds in NASCAR history.
2003: With 95 laps to go in what had been a physically demanding race with many lead changes among several drivers, No. 9 qualifier Kurt Bush moved around Bobby Labonte for the lead and never gave it up as he drove his Roush Racing Ford to a second straight victory at the Food City 500.
2004: Kurt Busch drove away from Rusty Wallace on a green-white-checkered restart to win his third consecutive Food City 500. He didn’t take the lead until lap 382, but he took over the race from that point. He held the lead the final 119 laps, which included five restarts.
2005: Bobby Hamilton and Ken Schrader made contact and chaos ensued on lap 332. Their bump initiated a 14-car pileup and collected many of the front runners. Kevin Harvick eventually took the checkered flag.
2006: Tempers flared at the finish of the 2006 Food City 500 when the usually calm and cool Jeff Gordon released an angry outburst and shoved Matt Kenseth on pit road, knocking the Wisconsin driver back several feet before NASCAR officials jumped in the middle of the fray. The physical altercation followed an on-track incident on the race’s final lap where Kenseth retaliated from an earlier bump by Gordon and used the same move to get past Gordon on the closing lap. Kenseth’s bump dropped Gordon to a 21st place finish, when he was likely to finish third or higher. Gordon was fined $10,000 by NASCAR for his post-race conduct, the first time in his career he received such a penalty. Kurt Busch took the checkered flag.
2007: Kyle Busch won the race, but the major story of the weekend was the debut of NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow. Busch claimed the win in his Chevy Impala COT, the first win for an Impala at a NASCAR track since Wendell Scott’s historic victory in 1963.
2008: The race was the final regulation points NASCAR Cup start for Dale Jarrett, and his father, Ned, waved the green flag to start the race. The sentimental choice for victory fell back early in the race and gave way to a tight pack of contenders for the win. With two laps to go several leaders fell one by one to the wayside, first Kevin Harvick, then Tony Stewart and then Denny Hamlin. The race went six laps past 500 in the green-white-checkered finish rule and was ultimately won by Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton. He led the first RCR 1-2-3 team finish in history as he was followed by Harvick and Clint Bowyer.
2009: Kyle Busch dominated the race by leading 378 laps and he held off his teammate Denny Hamlin, who finished second. Veteran driver Mark Martin earned the top qualifying position for the event.
2010: Perhaps it wasn’t Dale Earnhardt finally winning the Daytona 500, but Jimmie Johnson’s first BMS victory had its share of drama. Johnson had won 49 races in NASCAR competition, but none at Bristol. He was finally able to change that stat when he notched his first ‘W’ at the 2010 Food City 500 with a convincing victory at the controls of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
2011: After beloved track president Jeff Byrd’s death in 2010, Food City and Bristol Motor Speedway agreed to name that event to honor Byrd. Kyle Busch won the Jeff Byrd 500.
2012: Brad Keselowski started fifth and proved to have enough horsepower in his Penske Ford to take the victory. He led the most laps, 231, and held off pole-sitter Greg Biffle and a host of other top challengers, including Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr.
2013: Even though Kyle Busch seemed to be on a path to continuing his domination at Bristol by setting a track record during qualifying at 129.535 mph, Kasey Kahne emerged from the pack to claim his first Bristol win. The race also marked the start of a bitter feud between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, after Hamlin and Logano’s cars made contact during the race.
2014: Denny Hamlin won the pole and led for much of the race. A late race caution flew while Carl Edwards was in the lead. Edwards maintained his lead and the race finished under caution, giving Edwards the victory. As is tradition, an Edwards backflip was part of his post-race celebration.
2015: A race that was plagued by rain throughout the day with multiple red flag stops due to the wet stuff, finally finished on lap 500 late in the evening. Matt Kenseth broke a 51-race drought from victory lane when he took the checkered flag.
2016: There were 15 caution flags during the race, but pole winner Carl Edwards led a staggering 276 laps of the event and ultimately won the race at the controls of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. It was Edwards’ second Food City 500 victory in three years.
2017: Jimmie Johnson scored his second Bristol victory in convincing fashion, powering his No. 48 Chevy into the lead on lap 480 and staying there till the checkered flag dropped. In all, he led 81 laps and held off a tough group of challengers including second-place Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. Kyle Larson started the race from the pole and led the first 202 laps of the race, which was the most of the event, but he eventually finished sixth as the race had seven different leaders.
2018: Some simply called it the Kyle & Kyle Show. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson put on a thrilling and memorable performance for the fans as they battled intensely during the last 120 laps of the race. The two exchanged the lead five times during that stretch and Busch finally took over for good with six laps to go and put his No. 18 machine into BMS Victory Lane once again. Larson led the most laps, with 200, but finished second on Busch’s heels. Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman completed the top five.
2019: The Busch Brothers, who have both had their fair share of Bristol success, finished 1-2 in a dramatic run to the checkered flag. After the race Kurt playfully said he would’ve wrecked his brother if he could’ve got close enough to his bumper in the closing laps. The win, Kyle’s eighth in the Cup Series at BMS, wasn’t easy as he had to rebound from a multi-car spin in the opening laps. He charged back from laps down and finally took over the lead on lap 384. Late in the race his pit crew made the right call after a caution on lap 487 and Kyle elected not to pit. It proved to be the right move as he held on and led the final 19 laps to take the victory.
2020: A global pandemic forced the spring race to be rescheduled from April 5 to May 31 and it was renamed the Food City Supermarket Heroes 500 in honor of the great work done by grocery workers on the front lines during the first year of COVID-19. A late race skirmish on lap 490 between Chase Elliott and Joey Logano battling for the lead also collected frontrunner Denny Hamlin who had led the most laps and opened the door for Brad Keselowski to power his No. 2 machine to the victory. Keselowski held off Clint Bowyer in the final five laps to take the win. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Bush and Erik Jones completed the top five. Meanwhile, Elliott and Logano had an animated nose-to-nose conversation in the pits post-race about their on-track contact.
2021: For the first time in more than 50 years the NASCAR Cup Series returned to its roots with the running of the Food City Dirt Race on a dirt-transformed half-mile oval at BMS. Joey Logano, who started 10th, was one of the race’s five leaders and he took over with 61 laps to go and held on to take the historic victory. Ricky Stenhouse earned another BMS second place finish and was followed by Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez. Suarez had one of his best runs in his Cup career, leading 58 laps midway through the race in his No. 99 Chevy. Martin Truex Jr., who won the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt earlier in the rain-delayed doubleheader day, also led nine laps before falling back to finish 19th. Pole-sitter Kyle Larson, who had big expectations for a victory given his success in the dirt track arena, got caught up in a couple of multi-car incidents and finished a disappointing 29th.
2022: Food City is celebrating its 30th anniversary as NASCAR’s new Next Gen car comes to Bristol Motor Speedway to take its maiden voyage in the dirt on Easter Sunday. The race is scheduled to be held at night for the first time in the history of the Bristol spring race. Several drivers with lots of dirt experience are among the favorites, including Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., among others. Last year’s winning driver Joey Logano and one of last year’s top five finishers, Daniel Suarez, are expected to be top contenders.
The Food City Dirt Race will showcase the NASCAR Cup Series on a dirt track for the second time in the modern era on Easter Sunday, April 17, when the green flag drops at 7 p.m. (FOX, PRN Radio and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). For tickets, visit www.bristolmotorspeedway.com or call (866) 415-4158.