As you might remember, the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway in March had some fall out over the lack of excitement since the track had been re-paved in 2007. Let’s face it, a track where you couldn’t get a ticket has been the scene of a lot of empty seats lately.
When the 2007 re-pave and re-configuration was done, the banking was changed to what is known as progressive banking. This basically takes the 24 degree banking at a mid point on the track and increases it to 30 degrees in the upper groove. This technique produced three grooves on the 0.533 mile concrete oval which promotes door to door racing around the entire track.
The ability to pass on the high side each time around the track is great for the drivers, but takes the excitement out of the race for you and me, The Fans. It basically turned Bristol Motor Speedway into a snoozer, and fans reacted by disguising themselves as empty seats.
Track owner Bruton Smith has taken the hint, and re-configured the track again by removing the progressive banking and returning it to the two groove race track of the past, in hopes the fans would re-appear for the August Night Race.
On Tuesday(June 12th) Goodyear brought a new tire to the speedway for testing, and to confirm the presence of only two racing grooves. After a test session, Nascar stars Jeff Burton, Tony Stewart, and Clint Bowyer all echo’d the same story, “the third groove is gone.
Jeff Burton said in a press conference after the testing that Goodyear had brought a tire compound that would produce more grip on the concrete track, and would force the racing back to the middle of the track. He also said “The drivers aren’t going to be happy, but the spectators probably will be because it is going to put more cars in a closer space.”
Tony Stewart was the only driver on the day to actually test the higher portion of the track, and said afterwards, ” we have definitely lost the high groove.” He also indicated that he loves to run the outside portion of the track, and it would have an impact on his strategy. He said that when you take away space on an already limited area, and put 43 cars on the track, it would definitely tighten things up.
Clint Bowyer indicated he usually doesn’t run high at Bristol. but he could see it will be a problem for those who do. Be also said
“The closer we have to race just means something’s going to happen. Is it going to make fans happy? Well, narrowing up the track means less room to get around so there’s no question there’s going to be closer action.
“I tell you what though… this place has always been – and will always be – far and away the best race we have. You wanna see a great race in the best atmosphere we have? Just be here in August. ”
Another round of testing will continue today, but it appears that Bruton Smith has solved the problem, but we’ll see if the fans return in August. I hope they do, because this used to be one exciting race, and always one that I would stay up for, and watch every exciting lap. How can you forget the old Bump and Run Dale Earnhardt put on Terry Labonte to win the night race in 1999. That’s what this race needs to return to.
Photo Courtesy Getty Images For Nascar
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