There is nothing like a short track to bring out the old-school race fan in everyone. It’s the root of NASCAR, going back to the old days of the moonshine drivers trying to escape the law. It’s exactly what many local fans in the Clearfield area watch during the summer, whether it’s on asphalt at the Central PA Speedway, outside DuBois at Hummingbird, or the entirely redone American Raceway Park, which used to be Hidden Valley Speedway.
Short tracks are some of the more fun races to watch because with everything being so close, so intense, issues will come up and often get blown up. That’s just what short tracks do.
They are usually one groove, and in order to pass, drivers must rub, beat, bang, and hammer their way past the competition.
This is why I was baffled when possibly the most famous short track in NASCAR, Bristol Motor Speedway, did a reconfiguration in the middle of 2007. What was done was the 36-degree banking was taken away in the corners and in its place was a progressive 27-30 degree banking, making for side-by-side racing.
It’s in that moment that Bristol changed. The next year, the races at the track didn’t sell out, ending a streak dating back to the late 1980s, and it got worse and worse, culminating with last year’s spring event where the backstretch seemed to be empty…because it was. The track houses 165,000 fans, and likely they barely eclipsed 105,000, and that’s being kind.
Track administrators decided to ask the fans what needed changed, and they wanted the track. So, the top groove was ground down, hoping to keep drivers from running there and making it a one-groove track again.
It worked…sort of.
Last year’s night race saw a one-groove race, but it was around the top. No one could really pass on the bottom, unless they dove into the corner with a head of steam. Even in Sunday’s race, that was the way to pass if it was to be done on the low side. Mostly every driver preferred the high line, or even the middle lane.
Drivers wanted to have a softer tire, one that could wear out quicker and make teams search for the best groove, but that didn’t happen. It still appears changes need to be made to Bristol, as fans still didn’t come out to this race as they did in year’s past. There’s likely never to be another sell out at Bristol, especially with gas still mostly around the $3.50 range nationally and hotels in the area asking for at least $250 a night.
Short-track racing at Bristol will never be the same, not unless something else is done. For now, despite seeing better racing at the famed “Fastest Half-Mile,” it still will never be like the original Bristol.
RESULTS: 1-Kahne 2-Kyle Busch 3-Keselowski 4-Kurt Busch 5-Bowyer 6-Earnhardt Jr. 7-Newman 8-Vickers 9-Menard 10-McMurray
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Biffle 14-Harvick 18-Edwards 22-Johnson 23-Hamlin 31-Stewart 34-Gordon
CAUTIONS: 10 for 66 laps. Lap 10-15 (#14, 98 accident-T1), 55-62 (#9, 15, 31, 43, 87, 99 accident-T1), 72-77 (#1 spin-T4), 153-158 (#38 accident-T2), 237-241 (#33 accident-T4), 251-257 (#43 accident-T3), 322-327 (#7 accident-T1), 349-353 (#22 spin-T2), 391-402 (#20, 24 accident-T4), 456-460 (#48 accident-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 17 among 10 drivers. Kyle Busch 1-55, Menard 56, Ragan 57-58, Kahne 59-63, Hamlin 64-145, Kahne 146-153, Kurt Busch 154, Hamlin 155-189, Kahne 190-236, Kyle Busch 237, Kenseth 238-322, Logano 323, Gordon 324-389, Kahne 390-396, Keselowski 397-445, Kahne 446-447, Keselowski 448-460, Kahne 461-500.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 53 Mins, 25 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 92.206 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.700 Seconds
POINTS: 1. Keselowski, 166 points; 2. Earnhardt Jr, -9; 3. Johnson, -15; 4. Bowyer, -38; 5. Biffle, -40; 6. Hamlin, -41; 7. Kahne, -42; 8. Edwards, -42; 9. Menard, -48; 10. Kyle Busch, -51; 11. Stenhouse Jr, -51; 12. Logano, -62