The Bristol Verdict? Nationwide Good, Sprint Cup Ehh

Race weekend at Bristol had a little of everything. There for all to enjoy were hot days, humid evenings, lots of people, and one heckuva thunderstorm in the early hours of Sunday morning that woke up the whole area and tore the outside awning off our RV.  Luckily, all was dry for the three races run at the high-banked track oval, but something was missing and you can point to the progressive banking as the cause. Or was it?

I missed the truck race for various reasons, but eyewitnesses tell me it was a spirited event and a crowd pleaser. The same with the Nationwide Series race, which I did attend.  That little event had it all. Good, close racing and a couple of “incidents” that had the crowd buzzing into Monday. 

Kasey Kahne got pinched and found his Toyota with its right side tires on top of the wall. I’d never seen anything like it anywhere and the fans talked about it all night.
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Later, eventual winner Kyle Busch and point leader Brad Keselowski were fighting for the lead. Keselowski passed Busch and in the process pushed him up near the wall. Busch came back immediately and got into the left year of Keselowski and sent him spinning. 

The crowd booed. Kyle Busch is not the most popular driver on the tour, but especially at Bristol, he is clearly the villain. Later, listening to fans and talk radio, many insisted that Busch should be fined for his actions. 

Citing the penalty given Carl Edwards earlier in a skirmish with Keselowski, Busch should have been banned from the sport. Or so they say. Balderdash! Having watched a lot of races at Bristol, what happened was just Bristol racing. Something we’ve seen little of lately. I submit to you the Sprint Cup race.

At this point, many point to the new track configuration and the progressive banking used on the concrete surface. 

I’m torn on this, but I believe it has more to do with The Chase than the banking. Although the new banking made the track a more than one groove track, which eliminated the multiple cautions that used to dominate the racing, the race comes at the time of the year when drivers are more interested in points than going for the gold. 

Several times, I watched those contenders tip-toe around cars and take the safe route rather than racing hard. That’s a shame. It didn’t seem to affect the drivers in the Nationwide or Camping World truck races, so is it really the banking? Good question. Regardless, it looks like many fans have given up on the night race at Bristol. 

Sure, it was a good crowd. I’d guess at about 125,000, but I’m sure the track estimate will be higher. There were large areas of empty seats masquerading as fans.  

For sure, it’s not the same and never will be. Once the hardest ticket to obtain in sports had people offering ducats for as low as $20 on Saturday morning and people giving their extra tickets away at race time. Scalpers were paying so little for tickets that many just gave up. It was not the economy when that many did show up. It had to be the expected show.

I don’t know the answer, but maybe a Bristol night race in June or one in the Chase? Beats me, but I didn’t like what I saw, and it had nothing to do with the winner of all three races.

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Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as He can now be found at Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.


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