Despite The Grumbling, Bristol Racing Action Better Than Ever

Charlotte, NC (August 29, 2011) – “Bristol just ain’t the same anymore. There ain’t no action.”

One could hear those comments just about anywhere after Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Bristol Motor Speedway as some fans grumbled about a race that produced long periods of green-flag racing and just six cautions.

In a sense, they were right – the racing at Bristol isn’t the same anymore. In our opinion, it’s way better.

Bristol’s redesigned concrete surface produced some amazing two- and three-wide racing Saturday, something you rarely saw when the track was a one-groove wonder. The old track’s limitations created a plow your way to the front mentality. Can’t pass ’em? Just knock them out of the way.

Of course, that kind of racing produced tons of carnage, sometimes the kind you see at a demo derby. If that’s what you came to the track for, you were in heaven. If you hate paying to watch caution laps, you were in hell.

Since its 2007 repaving, which also included reconfiguring the transitions off the corners and moving the walls, Bristol is more of a racer’s track. The ability to pass is always there – inside, outside, even through the middle. Few racetracks that we’ve been to, especially half-mile ovals, produce that kind of action.

And, if they do, none of them are as fast as Bristol.

Saturday’s Cup race was a joy to behold. Just as in the Modified, Truck and Nationwide races that were also held at Bristol this week, packs of vehicles whizzed around the track at breakneck speed, inches apart for lap after lap. As such, green-flag racing ruled the day. One stretch of Saturday’s Cup race went 162 laps before the yellow finally flew for the biggest crash of the event – a four-car dinger involving David Reutimann, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin and David Stremme.

Of the six cautions, only three were for accidents.

At the old Bristol, you’d have three accidents or more in the first 100 laps. Not these days. Caution-flag periods are down and according to some statistics we saw before Saturday’s race, so is the number of laps spent idling around the track.

That’s cool.

We’ve always been a firm believer that racing isn’t wrecking. After all, it is NASCAR – the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. It’s not NASCAW – the National Association of Stock Car Auto Wrecking.

On Saturday, Bristol provided a great NASCAR race, not a wrecker, rollback and jet dryer parade. As the track’s slogan trumpets, that’s ‘Racin’ The Way It Outta Be.’

We couldn’t agree more.

High And Low Times –

While the Bristol Cup race wasn’t a sellout, it was darn close as the track posted an attendance figure of 156,000 fans. Friday’s Nationwide race attendance was listed as 108,000 and Wednesday’s Modified/Truck doubleheader drew 53,000, the largest crowd we’ve seen for that event in some time.

In an economic era where there are empty seats at just about any kind of sporting event, the crowds were of epic proportions. Even the Modified/Truck twinbill outdrew just about any other professional sporting event this week – including NFL preseason games.

To say the huge throngs gave NASCAR’s image a boost is an understatement.

Last Call –

We had to chuckle as Kevin Harvick continued to talk tough about Kyle Busch at Bristol this week. In reality, it is probably a good thing Harvick is getting some airtime prior to the races because his performances on the track recently aren’t post-event interview worthy.

Saturday, Harvick was never a factor and had to race his butt off to beat Cup stalwarts Casey Mears, David Gilliland and Andy Lally for 22nd-place.

In his last seven races, Harvick has posted a dismal 16th-place finishing average – including back-to-back 22nd-place efforts. His only top-10 finish in the stretch was a sixth as Watkins Glen.

Meanwhile, NASCAR data loop scoring shows Harvick’s average running position in the top-10 just five times in 24 races this season.

Finally, Harvick has led a ‘whopping’ 130 laps this season including none in the last seven races. He has three wins this year but led just two laps at Charlotte – including the final one when leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran out of gas coming to the checkered flag – and just one lap in his victory at California. Harvick’s most ‘dominating’ win this season came at Martinsville where led five laps, including the last three.

With those kind of dismal race statistics, Harvick should be thanking – not bashing – Busch for keeping him in the media spotlight.

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