Bristol Weekend Preview: Gordon brings back ‘rainbow car’ for Bristol

Jeff Gordon (Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon (Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon (Getty Images)

NASCAR fans will witness a blast from the past this weekend as Jeff Gordon brings back his classic rainbow paint scheme for one last race.

The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion racing in his final full-time campaign will attempt to drive his colorful car to Victory Lane for the first time this season in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“I have a lot of great memories with this rainbow paint scheme,” Gordon said. “What I love is this paint scheme is for the fans. The fans wanted us to run this scheme again during my final season, and this Axalta Chevy SS definitely stands out. You’re not going to miss it.”

Gordon would qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs if the season ended today, holding the second-to-last points spot on the Chase Grid.  He is a comfortable 55 points in front of the cutoff line, but a win would clinch him an automatic berth so he doesn’t have to sweat out the points in the final two races leading into the Chase.

Bristol has hosted Gordon in Victory Lane multiple times. The 44-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver ranks tied with Kyle and Kurt Busch for the most wins among active drivers at Bristol with five. He is also the active leader in top fives (17), top 10s (25), laps led (2,730) and average starting position (7.7) at the track dubbed “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

Maybe Gordon’s rainbow paint scheme will bring him some winning luck on Saturday. When his No. 24 Chevrolet sported the rainbow look from 1992-2000, Gordon captured three NSCS championships, won 52 races and took the checkered flag at 17 different tracks.

Win or lose, Gordon is prepared to put on one final show for the Bristol fans.

“When you have high-banked, very fast short track in this stadium – in this ‘colosseum’ – surrounded by the most avid NASCAR fans, the energy in the stands and on the track is electrifying,” he said. “It just makes for a great event.”

Regan Smith goes for second straight XFINITY Series win

Regan Smith defined what it meant to pull a 180 at Mid-Ohio last Saturday.

One week after nearly coming to blows with Ty Dillon on pit road at Watkins Glen, Smith found himself smiling and pumping his fist triumphantly in Victory Lane.

“This is an incredible feeling, just an awesome feeling,” Smith exclaimed after winning for the first time in 52 starts.

Regan Smith (Getty Images)
Regan Smith (Getty Images)

On Friday, Smith will try to celebrate for the second consecutive week by winning the Food City 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“Once you do it (win a race) once, you want to do that every week,” Smith said. “That moment when you pull up to the pit wall and do a burnout with your guys standing there, who put so much time and effort into everything that you get to go out there and showcase, there’s no moment like that, nothing that compares to that, no feeling or sensation.”

Currently fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, Smith trails his JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott (+26 points), Ty Dillon (+27) and Chris Buescher (+51) for the lead. Bristol is a prime place for Smith to gain ground on his young adversaries. He has made as many starts (11) at the .533-mile track as Elliott, Dillon and Buescher have combined.

Also on the line for Smith is the $100,000 NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash bonus. To earn the extra money Smith must finish ahead of Daniel Suárez, Ryan Blaney and Elliott Sadler. He grabbed the first two Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonuses at Dover and Indianapolis, so if Smith earns the bonus this weekend, he can win $1 million through the Dash 4 Cash program by winning the XFINITY race at Darlington on Labor Day weekend.

“We want to win this weekend, for sure, with the XFINITY Dash 4 Cash on the line, and there’s no better place for it than Bristol,” Smith said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: IRWIN Tools Night Race
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 266.5 miles (500 laps)
What to Watch For: Matt Kenseth goes for his third victory in four races … Ryan Newman makes his 500th career start, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. makes his 100th career start. … Joey Logano tries to win at Bristol in August for the second straight season. … Brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch along with Jeff Gordon lead active drivers with five wins each at Bristol. …  Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart are two drivers who have previously won at Bristol who need to win to one of the last three races of the regular season to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Race: Food City 300
Track: Bristol Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Friday, Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 159.9 miles (300 laps)
What to Watch For: Ryan Blaney attempts to defend his 2014 August Bristol XFINITY Series victory. He can earn Team Penske its third straight win at “The Last Great Colosseum.” … Six of the last eight Bristol winners (75%) have started from the top-two starting positions. … Standings leader Chris Buescher attempts to extend his lead over Ty Dillon (-24 points) and Chase Elliott (-25). … The highest finisher among Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suárez will win a $100,000 bonus as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash Program. … Long-time veteran Hermie Sadler III will attempt to qualify and compete in the Food City 300 this weekend, his first race since last season at Richmond.

About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.