By admin | April 25, 2012
By Richard Allen
On Wednesday morning, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. chairman O. Bruton Smith announced that his company was proceeding with a plan to grind the upper lane of the Bristol Motor Speedway down to the point that the banking in the turns would be uniform from bottom to top. It is hoped that the removal of the so-called progressive banking will return the track to what it was prior to a 2007 resurfacing and reconfiguration.
A decision was made by the track after this year’s March 18th running of the Food City 500 to conduct a poll asking fans whether or not they wanted the track returned to its former self. In reality, the decision to go ahead with today’s announced plan was most likely made before any fan votes were cast in the unofficial survey.
The most important poll to BMS and any other track is that of ticket sales. And since the 2007 reconfiguration, attendance at the track once called a sports ‘bucket list’ item had steadily declined to the point that the number of empty seats appeared to match the number of those filled in March.
After it was announced that the results of the poll were 60% in favor of making no changes at the present time and 40% in favor of returning the track to its previous layout, much was made on Twitter that the lower number had won out. But what has to be considered is that an unofficial poll on an internet website does not make Speedway Motorsports any money. However, ticket sales do add to the company’s bottom line.
Now that the grinding has been formally announced, the question is whether or not fans will return to the facility in the same numbers as had been the case a decade ago. Trouble is, once an audience is lost, it is difficult to get it back. Think of how many businesses in your community you have seen recover from a major setback after posting a sign that reads, ‘Under New Management’. Probably not many, right?
Granted, there are other factors at work in keeping people away from Bristol. Gas prices, hotel rates, a weakened economy and other issues have not helped the track. But in my discussions with fans in east Tennessee who do not have to pay for hotel rooms and have fewer miles to drive, the reconfiguration of 2007 is what they say is keeping them from going to the track.
I’ve had more than a few local fans tell me that, “They screwed up the track”. The point being, as I wrote after the race in March, the track changes simply made BMS into just another track.
Hotel prices have always been high around the Bristol area on race weekends. There were ups and downs in the economy during the track’s streak of 50+ consecutive sellouts. Those things became a factor after 2007 because the track was suddenly just like every other track and there was no reason to go out of the way to make the pilgrimage.
BMS fell off of a lot of people’s bucket list. It’s time to see if it will go back on those lists now that the only poll that matters was taken into consideration.
Check out my Audio Podcast: Random thoughts about Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch -> Random thoughts on Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch
Also, this was written just after this year’s Food City 500-> Bristol had so many empty seats because the track is no longer what it’s supposed to be http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1725
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