Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Could Bruton bring Bristol back?

For the eighth time since the track was repaved in 2007, the Sprint Cup Series will head to Bristol Motor Speedway for another go-around on the World’s Fastest Half-Mile.

While the half-mile track may still be fast, it isn’t nearly as rough and tough as it was before the repave -- an issue that has caused much discussion among fans and people who work in the sport. Drivers sit on both sides of the fence. Some say they like the new progressive banking that has allowed drivers to run side-by-side through the corners, and others say they like it better the old way when the bottom lane was the only racing groove.

As for fans, they have spoken with both their mouths and their wallets. Yes, the bad economy has played a major part in the lack of recent sellouts, but some of that problem might be because the racing simply isn’t the same. It is now rare to see a driver punt the car in front of him out of the way to make a pass, because he doesn’t have to; he can simply try his luck on the outside.

Although people within the sport are split on the issue, it’s still the elephant in the room. Fans miss the old Bristol, and the intensity hasn’t been around the recent races as it was in the past. Sure, the buildup to last year’s fall race was fun, but who wouldn’t have wanted to see Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch beat and bang their way to the front instead of run side-by-side? Bristol is unique in the fact that many fans actually prefer to see single-file racing rather than side-by-side, which is what most tracks strive for.

But Bristol has never been similar to most tracks.

Other than the dustup between Busch and Carl Edwards at the fall race in 2008, there hasn’t been another “Bristol moment” since. Throughout the ‘90s and early part of the past decade, nearly every race had a defining moment that lives on in the highlights even today. Dale Earnhardt spun out Terry Labonte multiple times, Rusty Wallace put the fender to Ricky Rudd and Jeff Gordon did the same to Wallace, not to mention the day Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer got into it in the spring race in 2002.

Plus, after the race it was nearly guaranteed a driver would be upset enough with another driver that he would go and have a “discussion” on pit road or in the garage area.

Want to return to those days? There could be some hope. Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith owns Bristol Motor Speedway, and he has shown in the past he’s willing to fork out the money to fix a mistake. He repaved Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2006 after the diamond-grinding disaster that caused a record number of cautions. He also redesigned Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 2007 season to add more banking and tighten up the racing. Why not do the same for Bristol?

A move to once again repave Bristol and take out the progressive banking would be welcomed by many fans, and if anybody has the money and power to do it, Smith does.


  1. Taking away one of the two gooves would bring back the old racing, BUT.... would today's point counters take the chance of losing precious points to mix it up?

    The Chase killed the fall race at Bristol... too much points racing, not enough real racing. Now, it seems as if most drivers are satisfied to "have a good points day" at the spring Bristol race.

  2. Gene - It will be interesting to see how much they get after it this week, but I'm not terribly optimistic based on how Vegas went. Plus, the new points system will likely make drivers more leary of taking chances because the penalty of crashing out is so harsh. Maybe the new wild card spots will spice things up in the fall.

  3. You can't fix boring. One hit I'm there, second move over, third bye bye. That is short track racing. If you want side by side watch all the intermediate tracks with progressive banking. Chase racing didn't screw it up as much as changing the banking.

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