|Bristol Motor Speedway
Photo – NASCAR.com
This commentary was originally posted by NASCAR Informer on his own blog after the 2012 March Bristol race and is part one of a three-part commentary. Later this week, part two – also previously posted will be available. Watch for NASCAR Informer’s new third part to be published sometime after Bristol’s August Night Race, which is scheduled for this Saturday Night.
As many NASCAR fans know, Bristol Motor Speedway has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent weeks. Bristol has been a big topic in NASCAR due to the lack of attendance and excitement around race time in the last few years. It once used to be one of the most exciting races of the year and one of the hardest tickets to get during the NASCAR season, especially the August night race. In fact, the race track had it’s record of 55 straight sell outs broken in 2010. The last Bristol race, two weeks ago, officially had 102,000 fans in attendance at a a track that can hold 160,000. By many accounts, including mine, that number seems to be generous.
There are a couple major reasons that are considered to be the reason for the decline in attendance at Bristol. One reason is the recent rise in gas prices along with hotel prices in correlation with a down economy. Gas prices are now close to $4.00 a gallon and the closest decent hotel is over an hour away from Bristol Motor Speedway on race weekends. The other reason is the newer configuration of the race track with the elevated banking through out the turns done in 2007. The elevated turns allow more side by side racing but less of the beating and banging Bristol was once known for.
My personal opinion is that the new configuration has led to the overall decrease in attendance at Bristol. Along with Jeff Gluck of SB Nation, I agree that Bristol use to be a unique race track. Bristol used to be known for the bump and runs and the frustration that use to come with racing in the mountains of Tennessee. Bristol has now turned into a place where you can see the same type of racing at almost every other track. I almost compare Dover to a bigger Bristol with the type of racing we now see there.
Fans can to go to a closer race event where there are better travel deals that are more affordable. This way they can see more of the same racing. They do not feel as bad about missing a Bristol race today in person because it is an easy way to cut back expenses when everybody is trying to find a way to save money.
Bruton Smith, owner/CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., said this past week that “something” will be done to Bristol’s track surface to re-excite the fans. We just don’t know if the “something” is resurfacing the track like it once was or something else. As the track stands today, I feel Martinsville has passed Bristol as the most exciting half mile. Until “something” truly is done to Bristol Motor Speedway, Martinsville will remain the most exciting half mile in NASCAR.