The Massive Cup Series Trophy and Razor-Sharp Gladiator’s Sword set the stage for electrifying winners celebrations at Bristol Motor Speedway
Among the most coveted gear on the NASCAR circuit, the iconic BMS Cup Series Trophy and Gladiator Sword combine to make pilots’ dreams come true if they are lucky enough to survive 500 laps of chaos on the high concrete banks and finish first at the Last Grand Coliseum.
When these items are presented to the winner in one of Victory Lane’s most unique settings at one of the sport’s venues – on the roof of one of the infield buildings – the scene can sometimes go completely crazy. It is a ritual that continues to make the venerable Bristol Motor Speedway one of the most magical places in the world of motor racing.
As BMS celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the gigantic four-foot-tall Cup Series winner’s trophy and razor-sharp gladiator’s sword have become an integral part of BMS’s identity and a pair of awards. highly sought after that every Cup Series driver desperately wants to add to their trophy case.
“In my opinion, the combination of the classic trophy with the gladius is hard to beat,” famed BMS journalist and historian David McGee said. “Racing fans everywhere recognize the huge Bristol Trophy – it was in the movie Nights of Talladega for god’s sake – and the gladiator’s sword is unmistakable because there is only one Colosseum.
Elusive items will be up for grabs again under the lights on Saturday, September 18 when the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs arrive at Bristol Motor Speedway during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Radio PRN) ). The event is a high-stakes cutoff race in the round of 16 of the NASCAR playoffs, where four drivers will be eliminated from the championship race.
At first, BMS officials handed out a variety of different styles of trophies to its winning pilots. It wasn’t until 1983 that then-owner Warner Hodgdon of California decided to establish a signature Cup Series racing trophy at BMS that would be big, memorable and permanent.
He asked his managing director to work with Bristol’s local trophy shop, Eddie’s Trophies, to find the perfect prize that ticked all the necessary boxes.
“Hodgdon did it in a certain style and Bristol was his baby,” McGee said. “He wanted the winner to take home a memorable trophy – something that would dominate a trophy case and be something he would keep forever to remind him of the accomplishment of his victory in Bristol. Track GM contacted Eddie Allison at the Eddie Trophies with direction from Hodgdon. Allison had seen the enormous four foot tall wooden and brass trophy and knew it was a perfect fit.
The new BMS Cup trophy debuted in the night race in August 1983 and the first winner was deservedly Darrell Waltrip. On Waltrip’s record, 12 Cup Series wins – five came with the giant bronze trophy.
“If you look at the Victory Road celebrations over the years, you’ll often see a trophy personalized to meet the needs of a specific sponsor,” McGee said. “Some trophies stand out for their style and design – the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Daytona and the Bristol Trophy immediately spring to mind. The BMS Cup Trophy is just a classic design that represents a huge accomplishment on the sport’s most popular track. Then you think of all those who have won one or more of these trophies and this list represents the who’s who of the modern era in NASCAR history.
The BMS Cup Trophy is constructed with a solid wood base with an elegant bronze cup at the top and four bronze eagles mounted around the lower base of the trophy. A beautiful angel holding a flame above his head sits at the very top of the trophy. There are several plaques attached to the wooden base that contain the name of the event, the year, and other race information. In the middle of the trophy is a plaque stating WINNER. At just over four feet tall, the trophy weighs over 50 pounds.
“Besides being big, the Bristol Cup trophy is heavy,” said McGee. “I can think of several pilots who in a moment of jubilation grabbed the trophy and started lifting it over their heads only to realize that it weighs 50 pounds and that four feet tall is rather unwieldy – not an easy feat after rolling a stock car around Bristol for three hours. This is why in most of the trophy presentation photos the trophy sits securely on the ground as no one wants it. to let down.
Meanwhile, the BMS Gladiator Sword made its Colosseum debut in 2014 and Carl Edwards was the first pilot to receive one on Victory Lane. The sword was an integral part of the innovative marketing campaign establishing Bristol as ‘the last great Colosseum’ and using the spelling that pays homage to the historic Roman Coliseum in central Rome, Italy. The sword is commonly known as “gladius” and it is something that would certainly be worn by gladiators who frequently fought inside the Roman Coliseum. He turned out to be the perfect symbol to secure a victory at the Bristol Coliseum.
“Carl Edwards, being the first to receive let alone see the sword, was very careful to remove it from the scabbard,” recalls McGee. “He’s got a bit of weight too, and I think he quickly realized he was very sharp. Once he got comfortable, he hammered it a bit for the photographers.
The BMS Gladiator Sword is 30 inches long with an imposing 19 inch hand forged stainless steel blade. It has a black leather scabbard and a brass plated sheath and grip. The official race name and date are engraved on the blade to link each sword to its specific Bristol event.
In addition to the race winners, the BMS Gladiator Sword was also presented on very special occasions to honored dignitaries, distinguished celebrities and many legends of the sport.
“We had launched the Last Great Colosseum marketing campaign and the sword came out of a team brainstorming session on how we could develop the Roman Colosseum theme and take it a little deeper,” Drew said. Bedard, vice president of marketing for BMS. “We had received inspiration from different tracks and some of the things they were doing in their winning circle and we knew we wanted something in Victory Lane that the winning rider could lift into the air. Our traditional trophy carries a lot of weight, so the gladiator’s sword was the perfect item that matched our mission and goals and it took off remarkably well, even more than we could have imagined.
Bedard says the BMS Gladiator Sword was an instant hit, given the immediate approval of a global social media audience.
“When Carl Edwards won the first race where we presented the sword and made it such a big deal, Twitter went crazy with this photo,” Bedard said. “This photo was everywhere. When we saw this we immediately knew we were on to something. It’s really cool now to hear the drivers and the team members talking about it and how much they all want it. You’re still hoping your ideas can take off like this and we were lucky this one did. It was a lot of fun.
Since 2002, the winners of the BMS have celebrated in one of the sport’s most unique ways to victory. Located atop the rooftop infield of the building that houses the Ballad Health Infield Care Center and The Apex, an exclusive luxury trackside sports bar, BMS Victory Lane offers fans in the stands a breathtaking view of the post-race celebrations.
McGee says the new BMS Victory Lane concept grew out of a reconfiguration of the infield to accommodate additional NASCAR carriers and that its relocation position was entirely fan-driven.
“The old victory lane was virtually invisible from the stands – a little further inside the track and turned towards turns one and two,” said McGee. “So the only time fans on the track got to really see the celebration was after the center jumbotron was added in the infield. The old victory lane was sufficient at first, but as media coverage, TV coverage and sponsor requests were increasing, it quickly became obsolete. It was also on its way to where NASCAR carriers needed to park. Thank longtime track chairman Jeff Byrd, for placing it on the roof so that fans of Towers 3 and 4 can see more of the celebrations. “
Kurt Busch was the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to mount his winning race on the ramp at BMS Victory Lane after winning the Food City 500 in 2002. Today, many brands of black tires line the ramp that leads checkered floor where a huge a metal backdrop with sponsor and track logos frames the winning car and driver for each winner’s ceremony.
“The emotion you feel in drivers and their families when they visit BMS Victory Lane is really special,” said Bedard. “When you win a race in Bristol you know you are going to that elevated area and there is just that larger than life feeling about it. It has become a very special place, a real destination for all the pilots of motor racing. Those who haven’t been dream of getting there someday. You always hear young drivers talking about ‘getting on the roof in Bristol someday’ and that just puts the whole special experience into perspective. “
As the air fills with impatience for the green flag to fall for the 2021 Bass Pro Shops NRA night race on September 18 at 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN and PRN Radio), with so much at stake in the Cup Series qualifiers, Fans can expect more magical moments to unfold in BMS Victory Lane as NASCAR’s top drivers compete up close in pursuit of a coveted victory on the legendary short track. You will be able to see all of your favorite drivers racing hard to advance in the playoffs, including Bristol dominant Kyle Busch, Food City Dirt Race winner Joey Logano, three-time Bristol winner Brad Keselowski, reigning World Cup winner. Night Race Kevin Harvick, Bristol All – Star Race winner and defending Series champion Chase Elliott, and five-time season winner Kyle Larson, who is still chasing his first BMS Cup victory.
In the Food City 300, NASCAR Xfinity Series favorites Austin Cindric, AJ Allmendinger, Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier will look to lock in their playoff positions in the final regular season race of the season (September 17 , 7:30 p.m., NBCSN, PRN Radio). Meanwhile, headliners John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes and defending champion Sheldon Creed will battle for a playoff victory on Thursday night in the UNOH 200 race presented by Ohio Logistics Camping World Truck Series (September 16, 21 h, FS1, MRN Radio). The rising stars of the ARCA Menards series will also take on the challenging half-mile oval in the Bush’s Beans 200 as part of a Thursday night doubles program (September 16, 6:30 p.m. FS1, MRN Radio).
For more information on tickets, please click here.