Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bruton is changing Bristol, but did people really want it changed?

When the Sprint Cup Series rolled out of Bristol Motor Speedway in March, it left behind plenty of angst about the condition of the race track.
Fans from seemingly everywhere wanted the track changed back to the one-groove, bump-and-grind race track that Bristol was before it was repaved in 2007.
So, Bristol Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith announced Wednesday his intentions to grind off the top groove in the corners at the speedway to try and improve the racing action for the next NASCAR weekend in August. In theory, that will create just two lanes of racing and make it more difficult to pass on the outside.
Smith said the changes were made because fans supposedly overwhelmed him in unofficial surveys that they wanted the track changed.
However, Smith also said Wednesday the final results of those surveys showed that 40 percent of fans who responded wanted the track changed.
Wait, 40 percent?
I’m no math major, but that doesn’t sound like a majority to me. If Congress, or any legislative body, made decisions based on a 40-percent majority, we would have some very different laws and leaders in this country.
Let’s compare this situation to an election where the results came out 60-40. Logically, it would seem more people wanted Candidate A to be in office, but by the Bristol method the victory would go to Candidate B, who had just 40 percent of the vote.
Early voting apparently favored changing the track by a 75 percent majority, but we still don’t make decisions based on who votes first.
The 40 percent who wanted Bristol changed might have been a very vocal minority, but I’m not sure decisions should be made on who has the loudest megaphone.
Sure, attendance has been down at Bristol for several races now, and it was prudent for Smith to conduct surveys to receive feedback from fans. But, apparently most of them said leave it alone.
On top of that, nearly all of the drivers have said they wanted the track left alone.
"I've had driver after driver tell me 'don't touch it,' talking about Bristol, and that the last race was the greatest race they've ever seen," Smith said. "We are trying to satisfy both sides, and we believe we are doing the right thing. We've got to go with that."
So let’s get this straight. About 60 percent of fans wanted the track left alone and almost all of the drivers wanted it left alone, but the track still decided to make changes.
Under those theories, the “Fans spoke … we listened” tagline that will surely be trumpeted from the mountaintops surrounding Thunder Valley this summer doesn't sound genuine.
The fans spoke, but if Smith and his cohorts listened, they didn’t act on what the majority of fans wanted.
I’m not saying the changes to Bristol will be bad. This could turn out to be a great change that will appease both those who liked the old Bristol racing along with those who liked the new racing style at Bristol.
But, if Smith said he wanted to follow through on the fans’ wishes, the numbers say that he did the opposite and took actions that most fans didn’t want.
Maybe Smith knew the correct decision all along was to change the track and things work out beautifully. But, if these changes don’t make the racing better there is only one side to blame, and it’s not the fans.

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