Craig Murto: Short track nationals return to Bristol

For the second consecutive season, the world’s best pavement short track racers will test their skills on one of the world’s toughest tracks when Bristol Motor Speedway again hosts the Short Track U.S. Nationals May 18-20.

The second annual running of the major event will be sanctioned by five different racing organizations and brings together six short track racing categories to compete on the high banks of The World’s Fastest Half-Mile in one very full weekend of action.

The headlining category is Super Late Models, and last year current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup rookie contender Bubba Wallace grabbed the victory, which was a major shot in the arm for the driver whose Roush-Fenway Xfinity team had closed doors, leaving him without a ride for the season.

Bristol Motor Speedway is also called The Last Great Colosseum and is a versatile multi-use venue that hosts major auto races, football games, concerts and other events. The facility features a 0.533-mile concrete oval racetrack with 28-degree corner banking and 650-feet straightaways. The oval track is also home of Colossus, the world’s largest outdoor center-hung four-sided video screen with a 540,000-watt audio system. The adjacent quarter-mile dragstrip, Bristol Dragway, offers more than 70 events annually, including the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Thunder Valley Nationals.

If you’ve ever wanted to see some good action at Bristol Motor Speedway but didn’t want to face the crowds of a NASCAR Cup or NHRA weekend, there is no better way than to attend the Short Track U.S. Nationals.

Last year’s Short Track U.S. Nationals showcased an epic weekend of competitive racing in six different categories, said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway, at the time the 2018 races were announced. Seeing the best of the best in the short track racing world take to the signature high banks of Bristol was a sight to behold. We anticipate this to be an even better event in 2018.

Last year’s race, unfortunately, was marred by bad weather, which cut back on spectator attendance by did nothing to dampen the action on the track or the enthusiasm of competitors.

Midwest organization Champion Racing Association (CRA), which took the lead sanctioning role in developing this event, will co-sanction the Super Late Model race with the Automobile Racing Club of America/CRA Super Series, the Championship Auto Racing Series Super Late Model Tour (CARS) and the Southern Super Series (SSS). CRA also will oversee the action for the Crate Late Model event and the Street Stocks. The CARS officials will oversee the Late Model Stock Car portion of the Nationals with their CARS Late Model Stock Tour. The Compacts will be organized and overseen by the Vores Compact Touring Series, while the Modified portion of the weekend will be sanctioned by a Midwest-based Touring Modified organization.

The inaugural event featured nearly 350 cars on the track, leading the Short Track U.S. Nationals to join the likes of some of the short track racings most storied events, including the prestigious Snowball Derby in Florida, Indiana’s famed Winchester 400, Maine’s Oxford 250, and Nashville’s All-American 400. The Nationals crowned 13 different winners among multiple features in six divisions. Besides Bubba Wallace, winners included up-and-coming racers Myatt Snider, Cole Williams and Chad Poole, among others. Drivers I expect to take part in the 2018 Nationals include Super Late Model hot shoes Bubba Pollard and Preston Peltier, as well as Stephen Wallace and Brandon Setzer. In the Late Model Stock Car ranks expect to see many of the top drivers from our region.

The action is always spectacular when you put local and regional racers onto a track that hosts Cup events, as they all want to impress, and many over drive their cars. The Late model Stock Car race held each fall at Martinsville is a good example; everybody has sheet metal to repair after that race.

And in 2018 we also will have the Commonwealth Classic at Richmond Raceway, sanctioned by the Pro All Stars Series (PASS). PASS Super Late Models, Late Model Stock Cars and Modifieds will be scheduled for that event, to be held in October.

But right now pavement short track racers from across the country are focusing on Bristol. Specific details of Bristol’s Short Track U.S. Nationals regarding daily schedules, additional racing information, advance ticket sales and more can be had at www.BristolMotorSpeedway.com.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.