By admin | March 29, 2012
By Richard Allen
According to a statement from Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the fans have spoken and changes will be forthcoming for the Bristol Motor Speedway. Work will begin within the next few days and is expected to be completed in time for the week of NASCAR racing activities to be held there in late August.
In 2007 the track was resurfaced and its layout changed with the addition of progressive banking to allow for more side by side racing. Although it has been argued that other factors played a more significant role, the fact is that attendance for races held at the ‘Roman Colosseum’ of racing has declined dramatically since that time. The recent Food City 500 was contested in front of grandstands that were half full at best.
“The race fans have spoken,” SMI chairman O. Bruton Smith said in a press release. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. The question we wanted to answer as quickly as possible was `Is something going to be done?’ The answer to that is `yes.’ We will have the details in two weeks as to what that `something’ is.”
Previously, BMS officials had been adamant in their claims that the track could not easily be reverted to its previous layout of a uniform 36 degree banking from bottom to top. While that layout may not provide for very much side by side racing, it does create the need for the bump and run maneuver, or ‘Bristol Bump’ as it came to be known, in which drivers tap the car in front of them to move it out of the primary racing groove.
The statement released does not specifically say that the track will be returned to its old configuration but only that “We will have details in two weeks”. So, it remains to be seen whether or not those changes will satisfy fan demands.
What will prove to be most interesting is whether or not fans will return in full force to the 150,000+ seat facility that at one time had registered more than 50 consecutive sellouts.
There will no doubt be a great deal of buzz regarding these changes as the August races approach. And considering that the late summer event is run at night, the party-like atmosphere has remained more successful at attracting fans, even as interest has waned for the sprint event. Last year’s night race was listed as a near sellout although there were pockets of empty seats visible throughout the stadium.
The real test for the new layout, whatever that is, will come next spring. If the type of racing that saw Dale Earnhardt, Sr. deliver the ‘Bristol Bump’ to Terry Labonte or Jeff Gordon bump and run his way to victory around Rusty Wallace returns in August of 2012, it will likely provide a major boost for ticket sales in the spring of 2013.
If the ‘old’ Bristol truly returns, so will the fans.
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