Friday, August 26, 2011

Here's What's Wrong With Bristol Motor Speedway

Here’s a helpful hint for those attempting to quantify what’s wrong with the “new” Bristol Motor Speedway.

Not a damned thing.

Since the storied Bristol oval was resurfaced back in 2007, media and fans alike have debated whether the racing is better or worse. Without question, it is different. The old Bristol was a single-groove racetrack that specialized in freight-train racing. Everyone lined up single-file on the bottom of the racetrack in true “follow the leader” fashion, doing their best impression of a 110-mph conga line. Straying -- even momentarily -- from the bottom lane brought a sure and swift trip to the back of the pack. Once there, there was just one way for a driver to make his way back to the front: the infamous Bristol “Bump and Run” where you whack a man in the rear bumper, shove him up the race track and run like hell, least you receive the same treatment in return.

The new Bristol is a multi-groove affair that features plenty of side-by-side – and occasionally even three-wide – racing throughout the pack. Cars run two-abreast for laps at a time, and a driver with a good-handling car can race his way from the back of the pack without leaving a trail of twisted, smoking metal in his wake.

In the old days, a driver would spend 20 laps bottled up behind a much-slower car, unable to pass until his temper finally reached the boiling point and he harpooned the poor bugger out of his way. Today, he simply slides into the outside groove and drives around his slower opponent with no harm done.

At the old Bristol, multicar crashes were the order of the day and caution flags flew with maddening regularity. There was no such thing as pit strategy, since the race stopped every 15 laps for another round of flatbeds and fisticuffs. The fastest car rarely finished, much less won, and millions of dollars worth of high-tech racing machinery went directly to the scrap yard after every race.

It was little more than a County Fair demolition derby, with fancier paint schemes and better-known drivers.

Lots of people say they miss the old Bristol Motor Speedway and the excitement it used to generate. Listen to them long enough and you’ll realize that by “excitement,” they really mean “wrecks.” They miss the crashing and banging, the smoke and fire and twisted sheet metal, the frayed nerves and post-race shouting matches. They miss the late Dale Earnhardt, winking at the camera and swearing on his momma’s heart that he never meant to wreck Terry Labonte. Just rattle his cage.

That’s all well and good, I guess. But personally, I prefer a stock car race to a demolition derby. I prefer green-flag laps to those run under yellow, and I enjoy taking a shower after the race without finding half a bag of oil dry in the drain. That’s not just me talking, either. The drivers seem to agree.

“We’re out there racing two (and) sometimes three-wide now,” said Kurt Busch this week. ”It gets three-wide pretty quick when you’re in traffic and the leaders don’t want to yield and give up time around those lap cars. It’s exciting to me. I think a lot of the drivers agree it’s a place now where…you have to have a little bit of finesse mixed in if you want to have success.”

“The track is perfect and fine,” agreed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s as good -- or better -- than it ever was.”

So enjoy the race Saturday night. And hold the oil dry.


  1. Dave, Bristol will be my second race ever and I absolutely can't wait to get there and experience it. Do I wanna see a wreck or two, sure....but I also wanna see some good hard racing! Hope to see ya there!

  2. doninwv1:53 AM

    Dave, I have to respectfully but vigorously disagree. I have been a Bristol season ticket holder for more than a dozen years, attended Wednesday's truck race and tonight's Nationwide race, and the racing is the worst I've ever seen there. Blame it on the track resurfacing, the COT, the Chase, whatever (I think these all are a factor) but each race has turned into a total snoozefest. As everyone knows, Bristol used to be Mecca. My season tickets made me a very popular guy until recently- I'm attending this weekend not out of excitement but because this year I couldn't GIVE my tickets away. And it's NOT the economy. The racing just sucks.
    Hey, I'd LIKE to stay a big supporter, but I just can't. All of NASCAR has been swirling down the drain the last few years because of all the things mentioned above....I hoped Bristol would make the best out of a bad racing situation, but it just isn't. I will not be renewing my tickets from now on, and I heard way, waay too many of those sitting around me tonight say the same.
    Maybe I'll see you at the WoO races next year.

  3. If you think all the empty seats at Bristol now are due to the economy, you're crazy. The "demolition derby" as you called it sold tickets and made Bristol the hottest track on the circuit. You can now walk up an hour before the race and get tickets. Is it more important that the less than 100 drivers like it or the 160K+ fans that USED to pack the place. My hope is that in the end the opinion of the those that help pay the purse will trump those that try to win it. Call it a demo derby or whatever you'd like, but it was popular and made money. Bristol attendance has gone down every year since and will continue as long as we have progressive banking in Bristol.

  4. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I was a season ticket holder for many years, but I declined my renewal the year after the reconfiguration. I was there when Dale "rattled Terry's cage" and the excitement in the stands was unbelievable. I watched last night's Busch (Nationwide) race, hoping that the lower series would at least have some excitement. I fell asleep, momentarily, and missed nothing. I'm not into wrecks for excitement, but I do enjoy seeing a driver flex a muscle now and then. That's gone. It disappeared with the reconfiguration and the points racing, and don't leave out that horrible COT. The demise of Bristol makes me want to cry.

  5. Anonymous10:56 AM

    What's wrong? What's wrong is to many people who control the powers that be are to stupid to realize they made a big mistake!. This track sucks now. They basicaly have made a mini California, or Chicagoland out of hollowed ground. Bristol was the one race track that the true stockcar racing fan could go and watch racing the way it was meant to be. Rubin is racing! Fans like to see cars get wrecked, tempers need to flare, the "Old Bristol" seperated the men from the boys every time, now you can win it on fuel mileage! I have been to Bristol 6 times, twice after the reconfiguration including this spring. Green flag pitsstops, cars stretched out all over really sucks. Dave Moody, I listen to your radio show every day, and I normally agree with you, but you are Dead wrong on this topic. So is Chocolate and anyone else who thinks this new Bristol is any good. Ultimately the fans voice will be heard if they think they will ever see a sellout at that place again

  6. Anonymous11:42 AM

    My wife,a Nascar fan, is crowd-aphobic but always thought she might try Bristol---not anymore! We watched the race last night and I have to agree with Louis it was like watching a race on a mini cookie cutter track--a real yawner. When they "improved " it they could have made it racier but not easier.

  7. And yet, tonight's race at Bristol is a virtual sellout...

  8. Anonymous7:19 PM

    virtuality and reality are two (2) different things. We'll see when the cameras pan.

  9. Anonymous8:59 PM

    ANYONE can bump & run. Yes, I enjoyed watching the old Bristol, but it was not a race. It was a "surviving-the-wreckfest". I can go to my local track for their 50 car enduro to see that. Like Buddy Baker says, on the new Bristol you can RACE...

  10. Attendance was over 155,000. Capacity is 160,000. Apparently most of the people who boycotted last night's race did so from their seats at the racetrack. And they saw a good race, too!!

  11. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Hey Dave, did you forget about the 40,000 free tix they gave away to the people from the kentucky debacle? Obviously if you take that away your nowhere near a sellout. Bristol needs to go back to what it was or else the night race will soon start looking like the spring race which was pathetic this year!

  12. The "virtual sellout" is because there has been a tunrnover from the old fans not renewing to new fans buying tickets based on the Bristol legend, which no longer exists. It will take another year or so before the new fans realize there will no longer bethe type of racing that made Bristol a world famous track. Now it's just another NASCAR track.

  13. So all those people were there simply because they haven't figured out that the racing sucks yet? Amazing.

  14. Ya know last week I was a pissy lil race fan..tired of Moody and Choc and all of em..the whole lot of em...but I apologize..I was listenin today and I was reminded we all have two things and both have a tendency to my apologies to the NASCAR staff for bashin you guys..keep up the good hard work..I LOVE IT..

  15. Anonymous10:40 PM

    9 times out of ten if the drivers like the race track fans wont. I'll be the first to admit that I liked the old bristol, but it not all bristols fault the new car just looks slow compared to the sleaker old car

  16. Dave, yes, that was what I saw. Lots of new fans all around me.
    They, and many other new fans were pumped for the race, but by the time it was over, they were falling asleep. They were banking on the Bristol legendary racing. But they were dissapointed. Some couldn't believe they spent all that money on a race like that, a race they could see at practically every other track (at least the ones I talked to in my area).
    I'm sure some loved it, but I guess they don't realize they can pay cheaper prices to see that racing at many other tracks.
    But the Bristol legend is no longer a living legend gone forever and a new era of cookie cutter racing is there for good.
    From what I understand, attendace was up though, from 155K to 156K. That's about a whopping 0.6% increase, but at least it's in the right direction.