By admin | March 14, 2013
By Richard Allen
In the time between the two Sprint Cup races held last year at the Bristol Motor Speedway, Speedway Motorsports, Inc.(owners of the track) carried out a highly publicized “restoration” of the half-mile facility that would return it to its previous status as a rough and tumble track.
Attendance at the upper east Tennessee speedway had declined noticeably since a previous resurfacing and reconfiguration back in 2007. In an effort to fill more of the ‘Colisseum’ seating that surrounds the concrete bull ring, SMI Chairman O. Bruton Smith made a decision to grind down the upper groove to cause drivers to fight harder for the low lane, and thus, come in contact with each other more often. You know, create more “Racing’ The Way It Oughta Be!”
As it turns out, the racing was not vastly different than it had been since 2007 during some stretches of the race, but there were some noteworthy exceptions in which it did appear as if the ‘old’ Bristol had returned. An incident involving Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart as they fought for the lead on lap 334 and a dust up between Danica Patrick and Regan Smith on lap 436 provided some highlight material for the track to use in its advertising campaign to sell tickets for this weekend’s Food City 500.
After Stewart and Kenseth came together on the front stretch, Stewart’s car was damaged badly enough that he was unable to drive it back to the pit area. However, Kenseth did continue on in his machine and was able to find his way onto pit road for repairs. As Kenseth headed back to the track, the waiting Stewart flung his helmet in the direction of the oncoming car and scored a direct hit right on the nose of the #17 Ford.
The crowd erupted and Stewart urged them on further by waving his hands around in the air upon hearing their reaction.
That incident has become the centerpiece of the speedway’s advertising campaign since that race ended. The Performance Racing Network’s call has been played as part of a huge radio campaign here in the Knoxville area and no doubt throughout many other locations as well. Also, television ads have shown the now famous helmet toss as a reminder of what fans might expect from racing on the high-banked track.
Another moment in the race that has provided plenty of fodder to be used as a means of promotion was the crash involving Smith and Patrick. In much the same way as the previously described get-together, one car drove away while the other remained parked on the track.
As Smith circulated back by the accident scene, Patrick climbed the banking toward his car. The crowd anxiously waited to see what would take place. Rather than a helmet hurl, Patrick decided to go with a disapproving finger point in the direction of her adversary. Again, those in attendance let their approval be known with shouts and cheers.
But now, the real test comes. Were those two flashbacks to the ‘Days of Bristol Past’ enough to sell more tickets than were sold for last year’s early season race? Or, will vast numbers of empty seats continue to be the norm for this March date?
According the the track’s website, there are seats available in more than half the sections of grandstands that line the speedway.
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