Keepin’ it Short – Apparently short tracks need wrecks to be exciting

Racing fans everywhere advocate short track racing, whether it is dirt, asphalt or ice. The close quarters racing, which results in beating and banging, often leads to hot tempers and occasionally fisticuffs. It is that raw emotion that brings fans back by the thousands when the cars hit the track at local short tracks across the country. That also appears to be why the fans have stopped going to Bristol Motor Speedway, resulting in Bruton Smith’s decision to tear up the surface once again to attempt to bring it back to what it was. While that may sound like a good thing for the fans that have spoken with their wallets at Bristol, it will remain to be seen if it actually plays out that way once the work is finished.

Bristol was the hardest ticket to get in motorsports for a very long time because the track led itself to single file racing that required drivers to make contact with the cars in front of them in order to move them out of the way to pass. With the carnage that resulted, especially during the night race when sparks were thrown into the mix, the fans couldn’t get enough of drivers losing their cool and the sound bites and helmet throws that ensued. Smith and the folks at SMI decided, with the concrete surface beginning to deteriorate, that they would try to make the track even better by putting in progressive banking which would allow the drivers to possibly race side-by-side.

When the national touring series hit the track in August of 2007, the results were definitely different from what fans had seen for years. Cars raced two and three wide around the famous half mile track and the number of caution flags was drastically reduced. While the crashing was greatly reduced, the excitement still seemed to be there, especially the next year when Carl Edwards moved Kyle Busch for the win at the end of the night race. Busch didn’t appreciate the technique and retaliated during the cool down lap and then both drivers sparred over the PA system.

While drivers were thrilled with the new racing at the track and car owners were overjoyed that they weren’t spending nearly as much money rebuilding or replacing damaged cars, the fans began to spend their money on things besides tickets to the Thunder Valley Speedway. The economy did make a downturn around the same time that the resurfacing took place so there was debate as to whether the racing was the issue or the tough financial times.

Now that the economy has begun to turn around the answer appears to be more apparent. The stands this past weekend at Bristol were as empty for a Cup race as they have been in decades and the fans took the time to tell Bruton Smith why. In a survey commissioned by the track owner the response was three to one in support of the racing being the reason that fans are not returning to the world’s fastest half-mile. Since the resurfacing project, there have been 10 races at Bristol, and 60 percent of those events have featured less than ten cautions, including last weekends with just five. Prior to the resurfacing project there was one race after 2000 that had single digit caution flags and that was nine in 2004’s night race. 1996 was the last time there was a race with as few as five cautions and you have to go all of the way back to 1984 to find a race with fewer than that, when Darrell Waltrip won the Spring race with only four caution periods.

The bottom line is that, no matter how vehemently race fans swear they don’t go to the race track to see wrecks, it just isn’t true, at least at Bristol. Fans want to see single file racing where drivers have to forcibly move cars out of the way, preferably causing the car’s pilot to lose his cool and attempt to retaliate. If the races have fewer than 10 caution periods they are just not entertaining enough to justify 165,000 people making the trek to the mountains of Tennessee. As a result, Bruton Smith is going to spend a million dollars to rip up a perfectly good racing surface in an attempt to appease the fans. One thing is for sure, if the fans don’t show up once the race is a 43 car parade with drivers wrecking others to make passes, then Smith will have every right to move a race date to another SMI track. You asked for it fans, now you’re going to get it.

This Week’s Racing Schedule:

Fri : Mar 23rd – Silver Dollar Speedway ; Chico : CA – World of Outlaw Sprint Cars
Fri : Mar 23rd – East Bay Raceway ; Tampa : FL – 360 Sprints
Fri : Mar 23rd – Five Flags Speedway ; Pensacola : FL – Blizzard Series Super Late Models
Fri : Mar 23rd – USA Speedway ; Sterlington : LA – Comp Cams Super Late Models
Fri : Mar 23rd – LA Raceway ; La Monte : MO – USMTS Casey’s Cup Qualifier Modifieds
Fri : Mar 23rd – Carolina Speedway ; Gastonia : NC – NDRA Late Models
Fri : Mar 23rd – Carolina Speedway ; Gastonia : NC – Open Wheel Modifieds
Fri : Mar 23rd – Carolina Speedway ; Gastonia : NC – Street Stocks
Fri : Mar 23rd – Devil’s Bowl Speedway ; Mesquite : TX – 39th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals Lucas Oil ASCS Sprints
Fri : Mar 23rd – Mountain Creek Speedway ; Grand Prairie : TX – IMCA Modifieds
Fri : Mar 23rd – Mountain Creek Speedway ; Grand Prairie : TX – IMCA Sport Modifieds
Fri : Mar 23rd – Mountain Creek Speedway ; Grand Prairie : TX – IMCA Stock
Fri : Mar 23rd – Mountain Creek Speedway ; Grand Prairie : TX – Street Stock
Fri : Mar 23rd – Richmond Coliseum ; Richmond : VA – Arena Racing
Sat : Mar 24th – Huntsville Speedway ; Huntsville : AL – Outlaw Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Huntsville Speedway ; Huntsville : AL – Sportsman
Sat : Mar 24th – Mobile International Speedway ; Irvington : AL – Miller Lite Super Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Mobile International Speedway ; Irvington : AL – Modifieds
Sat : Mar 24th – Havasu 95 Speedway ; Lake Havasu City : AZ – Lucas Oil Modifieds
Sat : Mar 24th – Havasu 95 Speedway ; Lake Havasu City : AZ – Street Stocks
Sat : Mar 24th – Havasu 95 Speedway ; Lake Havasu City : AZ – Factory Stocks
Sat : Mar 24th – I-30 Speedway ; Little Rock : AR – Comp Cams Super Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Bakersfield Speedway ; Oildale : CA – USAC 360 Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Infineon Raceway ; Sonoma : CA – 24 Hours of Lemons
Sat : Mar 24th – Madera Speedway ; Madera : CA – Smokey Hanoian Classic Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Madera Speedway ; Madera : CA – Sport Mods
Sat : Mar 24th – Madera Speedway ; Madera : CA – Hobby Stocks
Sat : Mar 24th – Silver Dollar Speedway ; Chico : CA – World of Outlaw Sprint Cars
Sat : Mar 24th – Desoto Speedway ; Bradenton : FL – DS Trucks
Sat : Mar 24th – East Bay Raceway ; Tampa : FL – 360 Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – New Smyrna Speedway ; New Smyrna Beach : FL – Season Opener Pro Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – New Smyrna Speedway ; New Smyrna Beach : FL – Season Opener Modifieds
Sat : Mar 24th – New Smyrna Speedway ; New Smyrna Beach : FL – Season Opener Sportsman
Sat : Mar 24th – Punta Gorda Speedway ; Punta Gorda : FL – TBARA Winged Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Watermelon Capital Speedway ; Cordele : GA – Outlaw Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Brownstown Speedway ; Brownstown : IN – Lucas Oil Dirt Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Leesville 171 Speedway ; Leesville : LA – Ark-La-Tex Winged Modifieds
Sat : Mar 24th – Hagerstown Speedway ; Hagerstown : MD – Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Hagerstown Speedway ; Hagerstown : MD – Pure Stocks
Sat : Mar 24th – Delta-Plex ; Grand Rapids : MI – Mini Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Magnolia Motor Speedway ; Columbus : MS – Super Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Magnolia Motor Speedway ; Columbus : MS – NeSmith Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Magnolia Motor Speedway ; Columbus : MS – Street Stocks
Sat : Mar 24th – I-35 Speedway ; Winston : MO – USMTS Casey’s Cup Qualifier Modifieds
Sat : Mar 24th – Springfield Raceway ; Springfield : MO – MARS Dirtcar Series Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Springfield Raceway ; Springfield : MO – Midwest Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Caraway Speedway ; Asheboro : NC – Limited Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Caraway Speedway ; Asheboro : NC – Street Stock
Sat : Mar 24th – Hickory Motor Speedway ; Newton : NC – Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Hickory Motor Speedway ; Newton : NC – Limited Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Hickory Motor Speedway ; Newton : NC – Street Stock
Sat : Mar 24th – Lincoln Speedway ; Abbottstown : PA – 410 Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Lincoln Speedway ; Abbottstown : PA – 358 Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Lincoln Speedway ; Abbottstown : PA – Thundercars
Sat : Mar 24th – Path Valley Speedway ; Spring Run : PA – Sidewinder Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Anderson Motor Speedway ; Anderson : SC – CARS Pro Cup
Sat : Mar 24th – Clarksville Speedway ; Clarksville : TN – SRRS Super Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Devil’s Bowl Speedway ; Mesquite : TX – 39th Annual Devil’s Bowl Spring Nationals Lucas Oil ASCS Sprints
Sat : Mar 24th – Motor Mile Speedway ; Radford : VA – Late Models
Sat : Mar 24th – Motor Mile Speedway ; Radford : VA – Limited Sportsman
Sat : Mar 24th – Motor Mile Speedway ; Radford : VA – Street Stock
Sat : Mar 24th – South Boston Speedway ; South Boston : VA – PASS South
Sun : Mar 25th – Infineon Raceway ; Sonoma : CA – 24 Hours of Lemons
Sun : Mar 25th – Speedrome ; Indianapolis : IN – Spring Fling Roadrunners
Sun : Mar 25th – Speedrome ; Indianapolis : IN – Spring Fling Hornets
Sun : Mar 25th – Speedrome ; Indianapolis : IN – Spring Fling Legends
Sun : Mar 25th – Caraway Speedway ; Asheboro : NC – Spring Classic 500 Late Models
Sun : Mar 25th – Caraway Speedway ; Asheboro : NC – Spring Classic 500 Late Model Trucks
Sun : Mar 25th – Caraway Speedway ; Asheboro : NC – Spring Classic 500 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modifieds
Wed : Mar 28th – Humboldt Speedway ; Humboldt : KS – USMTS King of America Modified National Qualifying
Wed : Mar 28th – Millbridge Speedway ; Salisbury : NC – Stock Car Steel Night Mini Outlaws
Thu : Mar 29th – Humboldt Speedway ; Humboldt : KS – USMTS King of America Modified National Qualifying

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