Bristol Motor Speedway’s Bruton Smith, Marcus Smith, BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell and NASCAR Hall of Famer & FOX Commentator Darrell Waltrip met with the media this week to discuss the changes coming to Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bruton Smith commented on how he approached fans to hear their feedback on what they believe should be done to make the racing more exciting at Bristol. He said the comments were coming in, for a while, then died off. Bruton Smith would put the results of what he read as a 40-60 comparison – with 40% of fans wanting a change to Bristol, while a whooping 60% said don’t change it. But according to Bruton, they are going ahead anyways and will be “modifying what we already have.” And by that, Bruton means the engineers will get creative and take away the top groove that allowed many drivers to pass on – without the old bump and run. “There’s just too much room for movement,” said Bruton.
Normally, as history has been etched into stone at Bristol, hardly anyone could pass without having to do the “get out of my way bump & run.”
When the deteriorating BMS track surface was replaced in 2007, variable banking was added. Often referred to as “progressive” because the degrees increase from bottom to top, the layout provided multiple lanes of racing on the famed short track. The modifications being focused on is taking away the “progressive” banking, or the top line (as a matter of speaking) in all the turns. In addition, Bristol executives have asked Goodyear to return with a softer tire in August. With that said, to me and this is only my opinion, but wouldn’t it make sense for Bristol to try the softer tire, first, to see if that helps before making modifications to the track that will cost millions? Bruton stated that Bristol will pay for the modifications. I just hope it doesn’t come in a form of higher prices for the fans on ticket costs or other hidden fees… you do get what you pay for, after all.
Bruton Smith believes he’s doing the right thing by removing the progressive banking from Bristol.
A question asked by the media was “Has NASCAR racing become to sterile?” Bruton believes it has. “Just look at Texas Motor Speedway. Only two cautions. NASCAR should have thrown the caution flag when Jimmie Johnson swiped the wall,” said Bruton. Kansas Speedway had only three cautions. One for a single-car spin, and debris – race fans don’t want to see caution free races, or freight train racing, either. They look for the excitement of bumping, the side-by-side racing. “Most tracks this season have become record setting tracks, is all,” stated Bruton.
Bristol Motor Speedway has always had the reputation of flaring up tempers of drivers, as well as crew members, bumping, spinning, lots of cautions and sending drivers to the NASCAR hauler after the race. “We want to bring that back… we want the excitement back,” stated Bruton. When asked about what the NASCAR drivers thought about the track, a majority of them replied “I love it the way it is, don’t change it!”
Bruton stated he has never consulted with any drivers while building a race track.
“Sometimes we have to look at the bottom line and that is what’s good enough for the drivers, just isn’t good enough for the fans,” stated Bruton.
So have fan opinions outweighing those of the drivers? Seems to be. Discussions have been on going – But what if it’s just that the racecars have become that good? Or maybe it’s Goodyear developing the perfect tire? Maybe it’s just the drivers becoming too conservative in their racing….trying to save their points positions as well as equipment?
As Darrell Waltrip put it, he used the phrase “Bristol took a blue collar joint and spiffed it up.” Another great example is what a lot fans could understand – social media. “It’s just like Facebook, as many of us do have Facebook pages,” said Darrell, “They changed it and I hate it. Some like it, others don’t. You can’t appeal to everyone,” continued Waltrip, “but if enough people complain about it, maybe they’ll change it back.”
Weighing the pros and cons of progressive banking, Waltrip stated “I’m not sure if progressive banking is good for a short track, such as Bristol. Maybe on a mile and a half track where there’s more speed.” Yet when asked how he felt about the changes about to take effect, Waltrip replied, “I don’t want them to change it.”
Bruton Smith said the Bristol “modifications” will take place within the time frame allowed before race day and will likely lead to an August sellout. Bristol will accommodate for a day for Goodyear Tire testing, as well as opening the track for fans to walk on and check out the changes for themselves.