Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bristol - Back to "Racin the way it ought to be"?

In 2007 those in charge of Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) reconfigured the racetrack. No longer was the half mile track at Bristol a single groove racetrack, as progressive banking was introduced. Instead of running into the back of the slower driver ahead to get him loose and up out of the groove to make a pass, drivers could race side by side all the way around. Reconfiguring the track sounded like a great idea at first, after all at tracks such as Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway had been reconfigured to have progressive banking & the racing went from being a line of cars driving in circles to exciting side-by-side racing action. Imagine, side-by-side racing at Bristol - wouldn't that be something to see? Turns out, it was only something 80,000 people wanted to see at the race there two weeks ago. 80,000 people. This is a track that once had 55 consecutive sellouts. Fifty Five! 160,000 people filled this staduim twice a year for over 25 years. Season tickets rights were willed to heirs as people passed on. It was the most popular race to see. I never did manage to make it to a Bristol race prior to the reconfiguration, yet I always maintained that if I ever got an opportunity to go to a NASCAR race, Bristol would be the race I would go see. I got that opportunity in the summer of 2010. I got to go see the night race at Bristol! Whats more is that I got to go see the race with my Dad. The Father/Son trip of a lifetime! I will always cherish that trip. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the noise. It was an incredible experience to be there and a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with my Father. The race itself? It was ok. Sadly I can remember looking up at the scoring tower and seeing there were still 300 laps to go and thinking: Wow... my butt is sore... holy cow we've been here for 2 hours and I've got to sit here for at least another 3? Better go to the concession stand to walk for a bit... Sure, they were racing side by side - but they weren't beating and banging & rooting each other up out of the way in the way they always had. There was still some good action on the track, Kasey Khane's car rode up the wall and drove along on its side through turn 1. But it wasn't the kind of racing I'd always dreamed of seeing at that track. It wasn't 'on the edge of your seat' excitement. It certainly wasn't what had come to be known as "racin the way it ought to be". I'd always kept that little bit of the story to myself - I guess I was afraid that by being upset with the race itself, it would take away from what was an otherwise amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Truth be told, I'm glad that I was able to fufil my dream of seeing a race at Bristol. However, with the track in its current configuration, I'd never go back to see a race there. I'd go to Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington or Dover. I'd tour the entire NASCAR circuit before going back to Bristol. That was my thought up until today. Today I read that Bruton Smith, owner & CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc (SMI) - the company which owns Bristol Motor Speedway - announced yesterday afternoon that he would again be changing the surface at BMS. What the changes are has not yet been announced, however Bruton did say that the fans had spoken and in the majority of the responses he recieved were in favour of changes, and therefore changes will be made. Equipment will begin work within the next two weeks to allow for the changes to be made prior to this August's night race.  I doubt that it is possible for them to make changes that will bring Bristol back to its previous configuration, but I hope that the changes made do allow for a style of racing similar to that of which we used to see. I await the details and the results with baited breath. Hoping for more "racin the way it ought to be".

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