Jeff Meyer · Friday August 31, 2012
As the fog that usually lingers a few days after a successful four-day camping trip to Bristol Motor Speedway continues to loosen its grip on my brain, I’d like to share a few thoughts on the “new” …or is it the supposedly “old” … aw, hell maybe even the “new old” track.
In my opinion, and you all know what that is worth, I do believe that it was a good race and the changes that Smith made were probably beneficial. As I have said previously, the supposed shaving of the track to create two racing grooves instead of three was a compromise that I could live with.
Why the switches? As we all know, seeing as it was hyped to death, after the dismal turnout for the spring race and recent years of non-sellouts for August’s Saturday night special, Smith supposedly “listened to the fans” and deduced that the reason for the no-shows was none other than “they wanted the old track back.”
I, on the other hand, not being the genius that Smith (or the supposed majority of the fans) is, always asserted that it has simply been the economy that has created empty seats. While it is nice, not to mention hard on the liver, to be able to come and spend four or more days enjoying the ambiance of BMS (and surrounding campgrounds) the simple truth is it is a luxury. I can’t speak for you, but when the price of everyday living goes up and wages are staying static, perhaps even decreasing in some cases, it is the luxuries that get cut first. The only reason I have attended the last three Cup dates at BMS is because I moved to Knoxville, TN which is just a couple of hours away. Even then it has, until this last weekend’s camping trip, been on the cheap, catching a shuttle up and back for just the races.
Truth be told, even this trip was on the cheap side as there was no RV or camper, but rather three tents. Tents are much more cost efficient to tow behind you than a camper! And while I might not have had all the luxuries of past excursions, I still had just as much fun and have the obligatory scars (both internal and external) that I seem to collect every time I camp/party there. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing! After all, even when it was truly the “old” bump and run track, Bristol has always been a crapshoot when it comes to the racing, just as it is on the restrictor plate tracks. No, Bristol races and the accompanying activities are about the overall ambiance of the place.
Having said all that gushy sentimental stuff, lets look at some good old boring statistics! As we do though, keep in mind that the BMS spring races never did have the reputation for selling out like the summer night races!
According to the awesome site of www.racing-reference.info, the last race to sell out at BMS was a scant 3 years ago for the 2009 night race. At that event, there were 160,000 in attendance. In 2010, the attendance fell to 155,000 before actually rising a tick to 156,000 last season. Remember, we are talking about the night races here. Let’s look at the day races, going back the same 3 years.
2009 – 160,000 in attendance (impressive actually!)
2010 – 138,000 (oops!)
2011 – 120,000 butts in the seats (seeing a trend here?)
2012 – 102,000
Disclaimer: it is my assertion that when it comes to the night vs. day races – Spring vs. Summer – you can’t really compare the two. March in the East Tennessee mountains can be a not so nice place. August, on the other hand, while humid and hot as all get out usually, is a much better choice. Why do you think they have the night races in August and not in March?
But if it was the racing that was responsible for fans; apathy and not the economy as Bruton Smith contends, you would think, now that he so graciously listened to them, you’d expect the attendance for this past week’s race to be pretty impressive, right? I mean, gee, it only fell to a low of 155,000 for a night race and actually rose a year ago!
So what was the attendance last Saturday night? 145,000.
How come we haven’t heard any press conferences about that? I thought they “fixed” the track? Guess maybe the track wasn’t the problem.
What’s next Bruton? An infield road coarse? You know what the problem is with gazillionaires? They rarely have a friggin’ clue as to how things are in the real world.
In the end, as I said, the changes made are NOT bad. They were just unnecessary. They are still racing three-wide in the corners! There’s just not as many people there to see it.
Stay off the wall,
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