Smith said the changes were largely fan-driven, adding, “I said when this process began last month that I would listen to what the fans said they wanted. After a week to 10 days, there was no question that the overwhelming majority was asking for alterations to the track. We have listened to fans, heard from drivers and talked to engineers about what to do and how much time we had to do it. Once we knew the direction, we located the right equipment to make it happen.”
Smith said fans spoke loudly about their desire to see a return to the no-holds-barred style of racing that characterized the Tennessee track before a major reconstruction project in 2007 added banking and width to the racing surface. Bristol ‘s 160,000-seat grandstands were roughly half-full for last month’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “Food City 500.”
While Smith has said it is possible to restore Bristol to its precise, pre-2007 specifications, he stopped short of doing so, electing instead to modify the current layout. Crews will immediately begin removing the track’s uppermost groove, installing a new concrete surface that does not include the variable-degree banking that produced increased side-by-side racing in recent years. The track’s overall width will also be reduced, leaving drivers less room to maneuver. Work will be completed in time for a scheduled Goodyear tire test there in early June.
“The majority of fans we heard from said they wanted adjustments made,” said Smith. “The bulk of those said the progressive banking was what they didn't like. So that's the focus of our efforts, and that is what we are working to change.”