Could someone please explain to me what has happened to Bristol? Ten years ago, this track hosted two races that came down to some beating, banging, and hard-nosed racing. It saw egos hurt, confrontations on pit road, heat shields thrown and one of the best placed middle fingers ever on television.
Sunday, something was different…something was wrong.
I knew it was wrong just looking at the grandstands. The color of the seating at the Bristol Motor Speedway is gray, with hints of red and blue. On a typical race day or night later in the season, the only thing seen in the grandstands are fans colored in the sponsors and numbers of their favorite driver. Sunday, and honestly since a few years ago when the track was reworked, the fans have not been flocking.
Ok, so maybe the economy is still in recovery, that’s a given. So some people would rather only renew the night race, that’s fine. But, there was a very sparse crowd, one that often could be along the same lines of California when it hosted two races.
Sad really, but the fact that the track has a different look than what built the track hasn’t helped. Up until a few years ago, Bristol had the highest banking of any race track, 16 degrees in the straightaways with a towering 36 in the corners. Then, in an effort to make more side-by-side racing, the track was reduced to a progressive banking in the corners, 28 degrees at the bottom to 30 at the wall. It’s now the third-highest banked track on the circuit, behind both Talladega at 33 degrees and Daytona at 31.
Racing at this track has changed, some say for the better but a lot say for the worse. There’s nothing wrong with side-by-side racing, it’s often made for some great finishes and awesome moments that still live on in NASCAR. But, Bristol and other short tracks aren’t meant to be a side-by-side affair.
The bump-and-run, the beating, hitting, slamming…it’s what made Bristol change from a 31,000 bleacher seating track to the 160,000-seat coliseum it is today. It’s the reason why despite noise levels higher than a fighter plane don’t matter to fans, it’s the fact that so many people get excited when they come to the track.
It’s not the same now. Seven leaders, five cautions…that’s not Bristol, that’s more of what one would see at a sweeping track, like Pocono or Michigan.
Maybe I’m just old-school, and maybe I do remember a lot of those moments, but I can guarantee you that this certainly is not the Bristol that I remember.
RESULTS: 1-Keselowski 2-Kenseth 3-Truex Jr 4-Bowyer 5-Vickers 6-Burton 7-McMurray 8-Montoya 9-Johnson 10-Menard
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 14-Stewart 15-Earnhardt Jr. 20-Hamlin 32-Kyle Busch 35-Gordon 39-Edwards
CAUTIONS: 5 for 49 laps. 25-46 (#2, 5, 9, 18, 29, 78, 99 accident-T1), 117-121 (#32 accident-T2), 341-346 (#30 accident-T4), 361-371 (#24 accident-T3), 479-483 (#14 accident-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 13 among 7 drivers. Biffle 1-41, Allmendinger 42-95, Vickers 96-116, Earnhardt Jr. 117, Vickers 118-216, Keselowski 217-254, Kenseth 255-256, Gordon 257, Vickers 258-262, Keselowski 263-341, Earnhardt Jr. 342, Keselowski 343-346, Kenseth 347-389, Keselowski 390-500.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 51 Mins, 52 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 93.037 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.714 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Biffle, 158 points; 2. Harvick, -9; 3. Kenseth, -12; 4. Truex Jr, -18; 5. Hamlin, -20; 6. Earnhardt Jr, -20; 7. Stewart, -27; 8. Bowyer, -31; 9. Logano, -31; 10. Menard, -34; 11. Burton, -37; 12. Newman, -39.