Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most popular tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, but it might also be the track with the most nicknames.
From ‘Thunder Valley,’ to ‘The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,’ Bristol has lived up to nearly all of the epitaphs given to it throughout the years.
Yet, perhaps the most fitting is the latest nickname for the short track: ‘The Last Great Colosseum.’
The current TV ad promoting this weekend’s Food City 500 shows the Roman Colosseum collapsing into dust as the grandstands that surround the 0.533-mile track rise from the ashes to reveal the modern day colosseum.
The imagery is fitting, given the hot tempers and occasional shoving match seen at Bristol. That got us here at Shake & Bake wondering which NASCAR drivers would make the best gladiators inside ‘The Last Great Colosseum.’
Seasoned veteran: Tony Stewart
As many have learned the hard way, you do not want to get on Tony Stewart’s bad side, especially at Bristol.
From spinning Jeff Gordon on pit road to tossing his helmet at Matt Kenseth, to chewing out media members, Stewart is never afraid to show his displeasure.
It takes a special kind of person to leap off a wall into a fight. Kevin Harvick is that kind of person.
After getting together with Greg Biffle during a Nationwide Series race in 2002, Harvick stood on the pit wall, watching and waiting for Biffle to park after the race. When he did, Harvick leapt into action, literally, and chewed out Biffle so close their noses were touching.
‘Happy’ Harvick isn’t always the happiest of customers after on-track run-ins, and like his new team owner, is often quick to let anyone who gets in his way know it.
What makes Harvick even more dangerous is the fact he is a former scholastic wrestler, is currently training for his black belt in Jiu Jitsu and has a lot of UFC fighters as friends.
Surprise entry: Jeff Gordon
An official talks to Jeff Gordon after finishing 21st in the 2006 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Gordon later confronted Matt Kenseth.
While he may not be the biggest or most commanding driver in the garage, Jeff Gordon is not afraid to get physical when he sees fit.
Gordon has sprung into action on multiple occasions, often times surprising not only the fans, but also the competitors he’s upset with.
Newcomer: Joey Logano
Joey Logano gets held back by his crew member after an altercation with Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano may be a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, but he has shown over the years he can get aggressive with the best of them. The Team Penske driver has gotten into it with the likes of Ryan Newman, Harvick, and last year at Bristol, Denny Hamlin.
Shedding the father figure that dominated his earliest days in the sport, Logano has developed into a man of his own and does not hesitate to stand up for himself.
Legend status: Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Dale Earnhardt looking on during practice for the 1999 Food City 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
How could a post about the greatest ‘gladiators’ at Bristol not include the likes of the Intimidator? Dale Earnhardt Sr. was one of the toughest, roughest, no-holds-barred drivers at nearly every track, but especially at Bristol.
When drivers saw the focused eyes of Earnhardt in their mirror at the 0.533-mile track, they knew the bump-and-run was coming; it was just a matter of when.
Just as some of the most famous gladiators were immortalized after their time, so has Earnhardt. He was a pillar of the sport, but also one of its toughest competitors. Just ask the likes of Rusty Wallace or Terry Labonte.