Bristol Motor Speedway to host college football game in 2016 (VIDEO)

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On Sept. 10, 2016, the most infamous half-mile in NASCAR will play host to big-time college football.

Today, Bristol Motor Speedway officially announced that it will be the site of the “Battle of Bristol” game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies.

According to the track, seating will be available for approximately 150,000 spectators – accounting for almost all of the track’s 160,000-seat capacity – and tickets will start at $40 apiece.

For the record, the current official attendance record for a college football game stands at 115,109, a mark set during last month’s Notre Dame-Michigan tilt at Michigan Stadium.

“There has always been a desire by fans to see a football game at our historic Speedway,” Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to turn this long-time rumor into a reality and to provide sports fans with an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of the biggest college football game ever.”

Bristol’s transformation from short track to football field will begin after its August 2016 NASCAR weekend. After cleaning, detailing and pressure-washing around the speedway, the turf and field build will then take place over a span of eight days, with 8,500 tons of rock (that’s approximately 400 truckloads’ worth) to serve as the base of the field.

In order to create proper sloping for drainage, the base rock will taper from three to six feet deep in the middle of the infield to about one to one-and-a-half feet deep on the sidelines.

The “Battle of Bristol” marks the culmination of what has been a longtime dream of Smith’s. Back in 2005, Smith said he had offered $20 million to both schools in order to get their football teams to play at his racing coliseum in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Additionally, another SMI facility, Texas Motor Speedway, has also made an attempt in the past to attract a major college football game – in their case, it was the Red River Rivalry contest between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Oklahoma Sooners, normally played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

But, now, finally, Smith has his game – and the Vols and Hokies are looking forward to it.

“We are looking forward to this opportunity to be a part of college football history,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. “The chance to play in a great venue as Bristol Motor Speedway against a program the caliber of Virginia Tech is another illustration of how we are continuing to build upon our great and unique tradition here at Tennessee. Our players and everyone associated with our football program will have wonderful memories of being a part of such a historical event.”

“To be able to play in front of a crowd that is the largest to ever see a college football game is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “With the great fan support that Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee have, it should be a great atmosphere.”

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.