The Frontstretch: Voices From The Cheapseats: Fans Prove Bruton Smith Wrong by Jeff Meyer -- Friday August 31, 2012

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Voices From The Cheapseats: Fans Prove Bruton Smith Wrong

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.”

The changes to Bristol worked out OK for the racing, but Jeff Meyer still thinks there is another reason for the drop in attendance at the track.

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, 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,

Jeff Meyer

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Sherri T
08/31/2012 08:24 AM

Okay, I knew I was going to see this knee-jerk reaction right away and you proved me right. Let’s think about this a moment…

If you give up your season tickets to Bristol because you’re disappointed with the racing (and even if part of your decision is dollar related). Do you really think you’re going to take Bruton Smith’s word for it? Wouldn’t you hold on to your cash to see what the result is? Maybe you’ll even wait a few races to see if the first one was a fluke? I know I wouldn’t just take his word for it and run out and buy tickets to the first “Old Bristol” race!

To expect that a decision made and a construction project ended would immediately change the tide of low attendance is a little pie in the sky in my opinion.

Why don’t we wait for these conclusions until the actual decisions and butts in the seats AFTER the change have spoken?

08/31/2012 08:56 AM

People are going to wait and see the results of the races at Bristol before they decide to come back or not.

But there are other factors as well. The economy is stuck in mud with real unemployment at 20%. The chase has had a MAJOR impact on the racing, and hotel managers and gas stations still gouge fans.

I applaud Bruton Smith for actually LISTENING to fans and responding….something nascar RARELY does. But there’s only so much he can do.

This lefty-sounding article is titled “Fans Prove Bruton Smith Wrong”. But I don’t think anything has been proved so far.

bud sudz
08/31/2012 09:35 AM

Seriously, one race and the fans were right?
Two groove (or one and a half) racing at Bristol was better than three groove.
The racing was beginning to represent Michigan with three grooves in the corners.
Also, lapped traffic was once again a factor for the leaders. If you watch the old races, the leader always caught the tail end of the field in 15 laps and that’s when the fun started. Either watching the leader and his pursuers handle the lappers or watching those on the tail end really get to racing to stay on the lead lap led to excitement on the track. You could usually predict which group was going to bring out the yellow as they raced (yes, raced) to stay in front of the leader.
Also, all of the Classic finishes at Bristol involved lapped traffic. Sometimes the second place car was able to make up nearly a straightaway in a few laps as the leader got trapped behind a couple of slower cars racing side by side.
The beauty of a bullring is not the wrecking, but rather the trading paint, rooting and gouging and the strategy that tight racing produces. Fans want to see jetfighters in a gymnasium, not three conveyer belts in constant rotation.
The Chase has also been detrimental to the amount of racing on the track (this year excluded).
Personally, it’s not about money. It’s about the driving and the parking and the time invested vs. the product on the track. At one time, that product was worth the sacrifice and I attended Bristol and 7 or 8 other races annually. Now, the product is not worth the trouble. Hence, I stay home.

08/31/2012 02:59 PM

Bud Sudz, you’ve managed to clearly explain what the racing used to be and what it became. It drove me nuts when NASCAR and the media tried to pretend the fans wanted to see wrecks. I enjoyed the Bristol races last week and I think the place will eventually sell out again if the sort of action we saw on Saturday continues.

08/31/2012 03:32 PM

Nice, right on point bud sudz.


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?

Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.