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Large crowd for night race at BMS

By Jeff Birchfield • Aug 17, 2019 at 10:38 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race drew a crowd of about 100,000 as estimated by veteran reporters inside the Bristol Motor Speedway press box on Saturday.

While NASCAR no longer releases official crowd figures, the reporters who follow the circuit on a weekly basis said it was safe to say it was the second-largest crowd of the Monster Energy Cup Series season.

The only race with a larger crowd was the season-opening Daytona 500, which had a sellout of 101,000 seats along with thousands of infield campers.

THE ITALIAN STALLION

Matt DiBenedetto stole the show during the pre-race driver introductions at BMS.

Coming out to “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the movie “Rocky,” DiBenedetto wore a red boxing robe with the words “Italian Stallion” on the back. The ensemble represented both the driver’s Italian heritage and his underdog role following the announcement that he’s to be replaced in the No. 95 Toyota after this season.

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 6 Ford, went with “These Are My People” by Rodney Atkins, who grew up in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, and is a 1987 graduate of Powell Valley High School.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson went with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which also is played before the start of Virginia Tech football games.

EARLY COMPETITION

Polesitter Denny Hamlin and fellow front-row starter Kyle Larson accounted for four lead changes over the first 50 laps of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

Larson grabbed the lead when Hamlin tested the outside groove of the track and Larson passed him on the inside. Hamlin reclaimed the lead when Larson had a tough time navigating traffic.

Hamlin later also got hung up in traffic and Larson made a pass in turn 3. Hamlin passed Larson once again getting a good run off the top groove and speeding past him heading into turn 1.

ICONIC TRACKS

The visit to Bristol Motor Speedway marked the first of three stops at iconic venues to end the Cup Series regular season.

After going 500 laps on Bristol’s high-banked, .533-mile short track, the series has a week off.

Racing returns the following week to NASCAR’s first superspeedway, the 1.333-mile Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The regular season concludes with a race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile, rectangular-shaped track.

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