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.
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!)
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