The Frontstretch: Looks Like David Poole Gets the Last Laugh! by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday March 22, 2012

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Looks Like David Poole Gets the Last Laugh!

Voices from the Cheap Seats · Jeff Meyer · Thursday March 22, 2012

 

Nearly five years ago, after the article you are about to read was published, I was engaged in a heated email exchange initiated by the late great motorsports journalist David Poole. David even went so far as to call for my head from my editors. I went so far as to offer to buy David a beer the next time I saw him. He declined rather impolitely, my editors let me keep my head and we never communicated with one another again.

Oh, I tried…back when Facebook was still relatively new and I learned he had an account, I asked him to be friends with me. Less than a week went by with no response to my friend request when the unspeakable happened…David unexpectedly passed away. I like to think that, since he never denied my friend request, he just never got ‘round to it. He was a busy man who was enjoying being a new grandfather as I recall, a feeling I now can relate to. While David and I were never ‘chummy’, I did respect the man and I did apologize for calling him ‘unprofessional’ in my article, which as I understood it, was what he was really pissed about anyway.

Why am I telling you all this? With Bruton Smith’s knee jerk announcement this week to bring back the ‘old Bristol’, it all seems quite relevant again. The article eloquently states how I feel about Bristol and the announcement I’m sure is giving David, where his spirit may be, quite a chuckle.

Though the track reconfiguration has been widely blamed for Bristol’s recent attendance woes, it actually took several years before the grandstands started showing holes (photo taken August 2007).

However, there is one thing I want to say…the simple reason people are NOT attending Bristol is NOT the track. Those that didn’t like the new set up quit buying their tickets right away…not all of a sudden. DUH!!!! It’s the economy, stupid!!! Gas prices are approaching the highest they have been in years. While ticket prices have come down a bit, they are still not cheap…just more available. But anyway, what do I know? I’m just a fan.

Without further ado, and my beer raised heavenward as a toast to David Poole…Here’s to you, David, have a good laugh on me and know that you are missed.

As published on August, 30th, 2007…

As most folks who actually know me can attest, I am a pretty easygoing guy. It takes a lot (whether it’s your actions or “beverages,” on my part) to get me riled up. Despite that laid-back nature, though, I can also be very blunt. Inevitably, people to whom I have been very blunt often confuse my bluntness with being “riled up,” which is sad – because that is seldom the case. “Riled up” would mean that I actually care, and that, too, is seldom the case. Today, however, I am going to be both blunt and “riled up.” A rare treat, indeed! Lucky you, my faithful readers.

Last week, I made my yearly journey to Bristol to take in this year’s edition of the Sharpie 500, as I have done every such August since 2002. Point being, I’ve seen a lot of racing, in person, at the fabled Speedway in Thunder Valley. I go to this particular track not as a member of the media, but as a fan – which works out rather nicely, as I’ve always been a fan first and a writer second. Truth be told, I think I only got into this writing gig as part of a drunken wager, the details of which are still quite hazy to all who were involved.

But that’s beside the point. After seeing things firsthand, I have no problem being blunt. The racing at BMS this past week was the BEST racing to take place on that track for a long, long time. If you did not like it, you have lost touch with the concept of what racing is truly about! However, do not be offended. There are a couple of excuses which I will accept for your ignorance.

The first is simple and straight forward enough. You have never been to a race in person at Bristol Motor Speedway. If you would have been there, or if you have been there in the past, you would readily, and quite correctly, agree with me about last week’s quality of the racing.

Bristol Motor Speedway is one of two tracks on the circuit that you will ALWAYS see more racing by being AT the track than you would if you watch it on TV. Television simply cannot show you everything that you can see at Bristol as opposed to being in the stands yourself. Out of 160,000 possible places to sit, you can see EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME, even if only in your peripheral vision, to which you can then focus your eyes (should you so choose) much faster than they do on TV.

But BMS has always been about the “experience” more than the racing. For years and years, there has been only one groove on the race track… and that is the bottom. The races there have always been a “parade,” and passes were made with the patented “bump and run.” It had become the accepted way. That “accepted way” resulted in the inevitable spin or crash, which made for great TV but lessened the purity of the race. With that said, the experience of hearing 43, 800-horsepower cars racing in a “bowl” is what makes Bristol what it is. It’s a sound that I can only describe as “having to shout into your own ear to hear yourself when you have a thought” which, oddly enough, can be achieved with the proper amount of beverages and a bit of practice.

So, as I sat and watched the Cup race last Saturday from my vantage point in the Pearson Grandstand, Sec. FF, Row 15, Seat 13, (Turn 1) I was absolutely amazed! I never thought I would see the day when cars were racing, three-wide in the corners at Bristol. They could go low, high, or in the middle…at speed! That is something that simply was never done at Bristol for at least the last ten years. I honestly do not have the words to express how truly great it was to see cars actually race there. The Cup race was the same way – the BMS slogan, “Racin’ the way it ought to be” is finally 100% accurate.

With that said, the thing that has me “riled up” is this; I come back home to find reports on radio shows and in the press that the race was boring! Now, radio show call-ins I can dismiss because, let’s face it, they probably were NOT there and on television, yes, a green flag pit stop at BMS could be construed as boring because that means a long green flag run with no crashes and, as we all know, no crashes at Bristol means no excitement…or so you’ve been trained to believe. Well let me tell you one thing; you have not experienced “boring” until you sit in the stands at Bristol and watch a race with 20 cautions and over a quarter of its advertised length run at caution speed.

But what really irks the living crap outta me is so called “professional” media types, such as David Poole, who, through a gross misunderstanding of his power to sway people’s perception, continues to perpetuate the idea that last week’s races were bad. Consider this bit of “expert analysis” that Poole authored in a recent article after the Cup race:

“But there is no possible way any sane person would think the average race fan liked what they saw Saturday night more than what they had come to be used to at Bristol.”

Since when does David Poole know what the average person likes? When I read that, I had to read it over again to see if I got it right. Was this guy at the same race I was at? OK, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he quickly typed something up to meet a deadline. But then I read the following, and I got really pissed:

“But as the fans who came to see it were walking out late on a hot August night, they weren’t talking about all the great memories they’d just made. They weren’t talking about how incredible it was to see the kind of racing you don’t see anywhere else.”

Now, I can’t say for certain just exactly where David Poole watched the race from last Saturday night – chances are it was from a monitor in the media center. However, I will bet my dollars to Poole’s doughnuts that he definitely was NOT in the herds of sweaty race fans making their way out of BMS to hear what they were saying about the race they had just witnessed. Trust me; if you know anything about David Poole (or talked to people who know him), you would put your money on my side of the wager. Let’s just put it this way; everywhere in Bristol is uphill, especially from the media center! David Poole was NOT among the “fans,” I guarantee.

Well, Mr. Poole, I WAS among the sweltering masses that were exiting BMS, and I can tell you that during the long time I was amongst them (an amount of time you would appreciate should you dare to try it) NOT ONE of them ever said a bad thing about the race that I heard. The same goes for everyone I talked to and partied with in the campground where I was staying. Everyone loved the new Bristol…everyone that knows what they are talking about, anyway.

So, don’t be duped by so-called “professionals” such as David Poole (the second excuse I would accept for ignorance). He wasn’t where I was or sweated with the true racing fan like I did last weekend. He does not have a clue.

Instead, “racing the way it ought to be” finally hit the nail on the head. My hat is off to Bruton Smith and all those at BMS who brought this dream to fruition.

Stay off the wall, (easier to do since the re-paving!)

Jeff Meyer

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old farmer
03/23/2012 01:57 AM
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Re: “if you have been there in the past, you would readily, and quite correctly, agree with me about last week’s quality of the racing.”

Gee, Jeff, thanks for telling folks what you know I think. The problem is, you are dead wrong. I’ve been to Bristol, and I DON’T think Sunday’s race was so great.

This is the most asinine, self-centered, presumptuous piece of journalism I’ve ever read, and believe me, I’ve read plenty—I used to teach the subject to high schoolers. Even the self-centered teenagers weren’t so smug as to think they knew that everyone agreed with them.

What drivel.

Chuck Ellison
03/23/2012 05:24 AM
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I agree with what the last commenter said…. ^ Bristol sucked and has since the repave…. I went to races under BOTH configurations…. and short track RACIN’ is supposed to have bumpin’ and bangin’…. without it, Bristol is like a toothless lion…. BORING!

Bill B
03/23/2012 07:52 AM
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You can blame some of the empty seats on the economy but not as many as we saw last Saturday.

Anyway, the idiots have spoken, 3 to 1, in favor of the old Bristol. Count me as an idiot.

RickP
03/23/2012 08:00 AM
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The ‘new’ track configuration has definitely made the Bristol races become actual “races”, not crash-fests.

Given the previous commenter’s toothless quip, “short track RACIN’ is supposed to be bumpin’ and bangin’ “, I suppose a house is only a house if it has wheels under it? Sheez.

Gordon85Wins
03/23/2012 08:38 AM
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I preferred the old Bristol, but I don’t think three wide racing there should make a race boring. And I submit that it’s the Chase that neutered Bristol, not the repave. You have to repave a track sometime.

I’m a little surprised that Poole got so upset with you…he usually blew off comments about his weight. I miss his columns sometimes because he took NASCAR to task when it was warranted, but Poole did have a little of the elitist “I’m smarter than the public because I’m a journalist” attitude so prevalent in media types.

The Mad Man
03/23/2012 10:31 AM
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Two things actually killed the excitement at Bristol. One was the reconfiguration. The other was the COT. I was at the last race under the old configuration which was also the first race for the COT there. Fans were actually sleeping in their seats because it was boring. A single file parade going round and round. So if Bruton really wants to improve Bristol, he’s going to need to have a car race there that can actually turn and handle, which is something the COT can’t do. And as NASCAR won’t let that happen, Bruton will be caught in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” quandry.

five0xpres
03/23/2012 10:52 AM
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Been going to Bristol for the better part of 13 years with my Mom, who travels from PA to NC to TN once a year for the trip to Thunder Valley…and I’m pretty sure that this was the last time we’ll attend. I always found Bristol to be a purer form of racing than you would find at bigger, faster tracks. It took someone with skill, nerves, talent and resolve to make your way around the concrete bullring and into Victory Lane. The bump and run was an art form. Those who were adept at it used it as a scalpel. Moving the slower car up the track without wrecking them. Those who had not mastered the skill used it as a club…get the hell out of my way and who cares if you crash.

Those who won at Bristol, pre-progressive banking, were the best of the best. Those who have won since then are just pretenders to the Bristol legacy. When the words “fuel mileage” are used as a possible strategy to win Bristol, you know there’s something wrong somewhere. But keep telling yourself and the rest of us that the racing is better now than before. Maybe one of us will believe it and I doubt it will be me.

MJR in Springfield, VA
03/23/2012 11:15 AM
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I have seen both types of races there with both kinds of cars over the last 11 years. I have to say I liked both of the tracks. Yes, we all have to admit it, it is kind of cool to see a couple cars pile up, spin, twist, and get crumpled. That is as long as every man, woman, and fan walk away unscathed. But to sit and watch 20 cautions is just a bit much. What I really liked about the “new” Bristol was the side by side racing – and yes there was plenty of bump and grind. And, in my mind that race had just enough bumping and grinding to make it a good race.

There is an old saying (my kids hate when I do this) “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” And that fellow race fans is exactly where we are with the Bristol quandary… one guy is going to love it while the dude sitting right next to him hates it with a passion. It’s life – get used to it.

The reconfiguration was not what killed Bristol (ok let’s say it’s a serious wound right now) that’s just a lame excuse from most of the fans that walked away. I really think it’s a combination of a whole pant load of factors from NA$CAR right down to the cost of diesel (I got a big-boy truck) and a camp site. Good luck Bristol…get well soon.

ArkyBass
03/23/2012 11:35 AM
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I have to agree with Meyers. When 25% of the laps were run under caution during the old wreck fest it was absolutly boring to wait for a few laps of green flag racing. I remember one of the Sauters taking out 5-10 competitive cars. Gee that was great entertainment, what amazing skills and I get to watch 5 great cars drive around on the apron without sheetmetal, even better. We used to joke about the pace car having the most ‘laps led’ at Bristol.

Bump and run is Chicken Crap racing requiring NO skill, to call it an art form is preposterious. With no way to ‘set up’ a pass the driver really had no choice. A little bumpin and bangin is part of the race on any track.

I’m not saying old Bristol wasn’t entertaining just that new Bristol is a real race now.

Kevin in SoCal
03/23/2012 12:45 PM
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oldfarmer, this column was written after the August 2007 Bristol night race, and is not referring to the most recent race at Bristol last Sunday.
Goodbye multi-groove, racey Bristol. Hello crash-fest, 150 caution laps Bristol. The King is dead, long live the King.

SHOEMAN
03/23/2012 03:29 PM
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GO ROWDY. Best of luck in August.

Bad Wolf
03/23/2012 09:55 PM
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It was the track re-configuration, Stupid.

Keep telling yourself otherwise, but Bruton is not a moron and would not spend a million dollars to put it back if he did not do the math and research the root cause of the decline from a 5 year wait for tickets to half empty stands.

Hill
03/24/2012 07:37 AM
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Sometimes you can be too close to something and can’t see there’s a problem.

Bristol stinks now. It’s no different than the mile and a halfs.

But I blame the Chase and Top 35…and maybe the COT as well.

Fans want bangin’, not boring. And behold! Here comes Fontana. Looks like I’ll get to cut that grass after all.

God, I miss David Poole.

tucsondon
03/24/2012 11:39 AM
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I actually liked the old Bristol; when it was asphalt and the cars ran on bias ply tires and the ass-end of the car hung out through the turns as the driver manhandled it through the turns while the tires literally smoked from the heat.

That’s the Bristol I miss.

SB
03/24/2012 03:34 PM
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I bet all those who love the ‘new Bristol’ are drooling over the prospect of the racing at Fontana this weekend. LOTS of room to race. LOTS of lanes to get strung out on. they must also love Kansas, Chicago, MIS, Homestead…in fact, the majority of the tracks now on the circuit. With the exception of Martinsville, and the road courses, and formerly Bristol, most of the tracks now offer lots of room and multiple grooves. Heaven forbid a few of them should actually be unique. As for the ‘racing purists’, I guess you weren’t exposed to the roots of Nascar…lots of short tracks with single grooves, where drivers had to race the way Bristol used to. How lucky for you that you didn’t have to watch those ‘crude’ drivers and races on those tracks. That is the ype of track where Nascar started, where it grew, and where it gathered the huge following it used to have. The ‘chase’ started the decline, and the repave just sealed it. After 10 years, I gave up my season tickets when I struggled to stay awake during the night race, even with 43 cars roaring around the track. That isn’t what made me want to go to Bristol But, by all means, let’s make all the tracks similar and make it lots easier on the drivers, even if it puts fans to sleep.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

Voices From The Cheap Seats: The Tale Of Two Tires
BSNews! Bruton’s Plans Extend Beyond Bristol’s Track
Top Ten Reasons Fans Failed To Show Up At Bristol Sunday
BSNews! NASCAR CEO Given "Special" Award Amidst Lavish Fanfare
Fan Coun-ci-What? Just What Is It That NASCAR Wants To Study?

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