Smith Says Bristol Will Be Changing
The fans spoke and now Bruton Smith has spoken.
Bristol Motor Speedway is broken, and the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI), the company that owns the famous half-mile track in the Tennessee mountains, intends to fix it.
Bristol has traditionally been one of the hardest tickets in all of sports, not just NASCAR, but at the race two weeks ago the estimated attendance was 102,000. The track has a seating capacity of 160,000. The fans have just been not showing up as of late.
The problems date back to 2007 when the track’s concrete surface was torn up and replaced with new progressive banking (it’s steeper at the top than the bottom). The new (alleged) 36-degree banks were more accommodating to side-by-side racing, meaning drivers didn’t have to put the front bumper to the rear bumper of the car in front of them to pass. I say alleged because Ryan Newman claims that, with the backup of some engineers, the new track is no steeper than 26 degrees.
Either way, the racing has not been as rough and rugged as it was in the past, so fans have quit coming. Now I know this isn’t the only reason. That whole recession thing that coincided with the repaving didn’t help. But for a race that normally doesn’t go more than 20 laps without seeing a caution to go over 200 laps without a yellow flag as it did two weeks ago, something has to give.
“The race fans have spoken,” Smith said via a press release earlier this week. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made.
“As a result, I have ordered the equipment, and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August.”
Exactly what that equipment is and what those changes are, Smith didn’t say. That announcement will be coming. I hope he doesn’t decide to “levigate” the track like he did at Charlotte a few years back. That was an abject disaster.
But this is a big step for ol’ Bruton, a man so stubborn he once, not too long ago, threatened to pack up his race track in Charlotte and move it to another county when Cabarrus didn’t agree with him. The county government eventually backed down and ended up naming the road by the speedway after Smith.
I’m not sure exactly what can be done to fix the track, short of tearing it up and resurfacing the whole thing again. That may cost a bit more than SMI wants to put into the venture right now. But in order to save one of the best events in racing before it becomes like California Speedway’s races, they have to do something.
I’m glad SMI and Bruton Smith finally see that.
Contact Andy Cagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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