By admin | March 12, 2008
It’s the most exciting racing venue in the world
By Richard Allen
Once again it is time for NASCAR to make a trek into the hills of upper East Tennessee.
Typically the Bristol Motor Speedway provides the most intense racing on the Sprint Cup circuit. Its hard concrete surface and steeply banked turns allow cars to travel around the half-mile track at an almost unbelievable pace.
NASCAR fans obviously love what they see. Not only are the grandstands packed with over 160,000 fans every time a race is held on the concrete bull ring but there is a waiting list of fans just hoping to get an opportunity to buy tickets. Unlike Atlanta Motor Speedway and the California Speedway, sites of two of the first four races so far this season, there will be no empty seats on race day. However, the last race held on this speedway raised cause for a little worry.
This past Saturday during coverage of the Nationwide Series race in Atlanta, Dale Jarrett said of BMS, “It’s the most exciting racing venue in the world. I don’t care what they have anywhere else.”
Fans who have seen numerous events on the track would no doubt agree. But, if the race held on the track last August were the only race a new fan had every seen at the facility, the new fan would have to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Carl Edwards won the Sharpie 500 in what turned out to be a follow the leader snoozer, much unlike the average race on the track. Many fans and competitors no doubt left that night wondering what happened to the track they loved so much. There were several explanations offered as to what went wrong.
Some blamed the Chase for the Championship. The theory was that drivers were concerned about securing their position going into the upcoming playoff and just found a comfortable spot to ride and logged laps. If that was the case then this time around there should be more ‘Racing the way it ought to be’ to borrow the track’s slogan. The Chase should not play any role in this race as it is still 21 races away.
Others thought the Car of Tomorrow was to blame. The often complained about, difficult to handle, race car was believed to be so much of a handful that drivers were doing the best they could just to hang on, much less race. Teams appear to have a better grip on the CoT now. If that was the cause for last August’s unusual occurrence, the racing should be much improved this weekend.
Another thought was that it was the progressive banking and the hard tire Goodyear had brought because of the track’s new surface which caused the lackluster race. Speedway Motorsports, the facility’s owner, had decided to resurface the track last summer. Along with the new concrete they installed progressive banking, a form of banking which increases in steepness the farther up the turn the car moves. The thought was that progressive banking would encourage more side by side racing.
Whatever the case, let’s hope it was a one time occurrence. Any other time no one who follows stock car racing would have challenged Dale Jarrett’s statement. Unfortunately, the last race held at the Bristol Motor Speedway did not live up to the track’s usual standards. Hopefully, after Sunday’s race, unlike last summer, it will be more than just the winner who will be turning back flips.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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