What Is A Cold Pass At Bristol Motor Speedway? [Ultimate Guide!]

One of the most famous motorsport venues is Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which has hosted the NASCAR Walt Disney World Speedway Challenge and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MEPCS). The track is widely considered to be one of the most difficult circuits to negotiate successfully. Because of this, many drivers call it a “cold” track. Let’s take a closer look at what a cold pass at Bristol is.

The History Of The Track

Bristol Motor Speedway first opened its gates in September 1960. It is one of the few courses built in a true “speedway” style and has hosted major motorsport events ever since. The track currently hosts the NASCAR Walt Disney World Speedway Challenge and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It is also the location of the Verizon IndyCar Grand Prix in September.

The iconic “Short Course” was built in the shape of a figure eight. This design makes the track appear shorter than it actually is. The length of the track is just under 4.9 miles (7.9 km). This makes it one of the longer short tracks in the IndyCar Series. It also means, however, that less fans are able to get into the action. The steep terrain and tight corners make it a challenging layout for all drivers. This is why many describe the track as “cold” and “heartbreaking”.

The Layout Of The Track

The turns at Bristol are a combination of banked turns, sharp bends, and elevation changes. The track is somewhat unique because of its altitude. Most tracks are constructed at sea level, so when you factor in the elevation change of 1,250 feet (385 m) above sea level, it makes for quite the technical challenge.

The first turn is a left hand turn known as the “first” turn. It is a wide and beautiful start that leads to a flat straightaway. This turn also features a “summit straight,” where the track is flat and almost entirely exposed. The straightaways at Bristol are some of the most famous ones in the country. The natural beauty of the surrounding area and the grandstands that line the track help make it one of the most picturesque venues in all of motorsport.

The Temperature And Weather Of The Track

The temperature at Bristol ranges from 38°F (3°C) to 104°F (40°C). Due to its high elevation, the air is quite a bit cooler here than it is at other racetracks. As a result, the temperature can be an issue. During the hottest times of the year, the track can heat up quickly and become extremely uncomfortable for the drivers and fans alike. Luckily, this is more often than not a heat-related issue. Only three times in the last 57 years has the temperature risen above 100°F (38°C) at Bristol. On each of these occasions, the drivers have either been forced to make an unscheduled stop or been penalized.

The track can get quite wet in nature. Because of the extreme elevation, the rain usually travels quickly down the slope and finds its way into the turns. This is why the track is often referred to as a “water course” or a “riverbed track”. Fortunately, while the terrain is certainly challenging, the track is generally well-maintained and in good condition. This makes it easy for drivers to negotiate. However, as you would expect, a lot of water has collected in the drainage ditches on both sides of the track. These ditches can cause serious problems for even the most experienced drivers. Getting stuck in one of these can be quite frustrating. During a recent rainstorm, Ryan Hunter-Reay was forced to go to the emergency room after getting stuck in one of these ditches. Luckily, he was able to walk away with only minor injuries. This is why many call Bristol a “cold” track.

The Surface Of The Track

The surface of the track at Bristol is quite challenging as well. There are four unique surfaces that the track is covered by. First, there is the “green” surface. This is a mixture of dirt and grass that is regularly watered and kept in good condition. Second, there is the white surface. This is similar to the green surface, but with no grass. Third, there is the yellow surface. This one is a blend of asphalt and concrete that has been stained to make it easier for drivers to see. Finally, there is the black surface. This is made up of tarmac. All of these surfaces make for extremely challenging driving. It is not uncommon for drivers to completely lose control of their cars on any of these surfaces. Fortunately, that happens very rarely. Mostly, the cars just skid around the curves wildly until they find their way back onto the paved surface.

How Is The Track Marked?

Bristol Motor Speedway is quite a distinctive track due to its elevation and unique layout. This makes it quite easy to identify if you have ever been there. The most prominent feature of the track are the grandstands that line both sides of the track. These are some of the best in all of motorsport, packed with tons of amenities and perfectly situated to overlook the entire track. It is quite an iconic venue that has hosted some of the most memorable races in history.

The track is also well-signed. Although there are no lights on the course, the yellow surface and turns are quite easy to spot. This makes it possible for drivers to follow nearly every rule and regulation. It is also one of the few venues in the country that uses a chicane (the “dog leg”) to make a right hand turn into a straightaway. These markings are quite easy to spot as well due to their size and shape.

It is quite a difficult track to negotiate successfully. Because of this, many drivers say it is a “cold” track. Despite this, it still has a unique beauty all its own and has hosted some of the most memorable and exciting NASCAR races over the years. Most drivers consider it to be a “must see” track, whether they are drivers or fans. If you have ever been to Pennsylvania, you know exactly what I am talking about.

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