Track's History Could Mean Another Surprise First-Time Winner in Bank of America 500
In a NASCAR season unlike any other, first-time winners are grabbing the headlines. Never before have drivers scored their first career wins in the Daytona 500, Southern 500, Coke Zero 400 and Brickyard 400 during the same year, but that’s exactly what Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, David Ragan and Paul Menard have done respectively in 2011.
No other track can boast an impressive line-up of first-time winners quite like Charlotte Motor Speedway can and the track is ready to add to its legacy during the only night race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup - the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 15.
The list of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who earned their first career Cup victories at Charlotte Motor Speedway includes David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears and David Reutimann. Four of these drivers, Gordon, Kenseth, Labonte and Pearson, went on to win series championships.
"One of my favorite memories is the (Coca-Cola) 600 in 1994, because that was my first-ever win that I had in a Cup car,” said Gordon. “It was beyond a dream come true to win a race at the Cup level, and to do it at Charlotte. Everybody knows how special Charlotte is, just its history within the sport but also because it's located in the backyards of all the race teams.
“Ray Evernham made a great call in the pits to take two tires when Rusty (Wallace) pretty much dominated the race all day. He took four, and we took two and won the race. That was certainly the start of a lot of history for me in this sport and something I will never forget."
Glotzbach and McMurray earned their first career victories in the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as did Baker, who scored his first career win at the track in 1967.
"It's hard to explain that feeling between being just a driver and then being a winner on a big stage," Baker reflected. "You don't know whether to show your emotions or try to hold them back and look like everybody else that ever won a big race. But that first one, if you don't let it out, I think you would explode.
"Nothing will ever compare to your first major win,” he added. “Since that is what I was going to do the rest of my life, it was really big.”
Nearly eight years to the day after he scored his first career victory subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin, McMurray became the most recent driver to win the Bank of America 500, capturing the checkered flag last year.
“I will never forget winning at Charlotte in October of 2002," McMurray said. "It’s the home track for everybody. Charlotte is a wonderful place to race. It’s the one track coming to this year that I was really excited about because we ran so well here last year. It’s always been a really good track for me.”
Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers still seeking their first career victory include Marcos Ambrose, A.J. Allmendinger, Landon Cassill, David Gilliland and J.J. Yeley. With several of these drivers having strong race runs in 2010 and 2011, and with the history of first-time winners at Charlotte Motor Speedway, fans shouldn’t be surprised if there is a surprise visitor to Victory Lane on Oct. 15 when 43 of NASCAR’s best compete under the lights in the Bank of America 500.
“We have seen some fantastic racing this year, with new faces in Victory Lane and that’s been exciting,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I love rooting for the underdog and so do many of our fans. I can’t wait to see who will be next to score their first-ever victory and I think there’s a great chance we could be celebrating with that driver this October in Charlotte.”
Tickets for the Bank of America 500 start at just $49. For more information, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or go online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.