Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Will The 2nd Bristol Motor Speedway Repave Pan Out For Everyone?

NASCAR is headed to the newly reconfigured (again) Bristol Motor Speedway.  This weekend will be the first weekend that NASCAR competition will take place on the reconfigured track surface.  The reconfiguration involved Bruton Smith choosing to grind down the outside third line of the track, removing the progressive banking from the top racing groove.

This latest Bristol Motor Speedway Repave came from Bruton Smith who said they listened to fans about what they wanted in the racing action.

Some drivers who were at the latest tire test at the track indicated less than favorable perspectives.  Or, evidenced the awareness of a tougher condition to beat when in the heat of race battle.  Me, I can't wait to see how Smith's plan works out.

But...

I would be remiss if I did not make mention of a few things about the track, the change or like perspectives.

-Before any repave came about, Bristol was a very popular destination for race fans, in both attending and watching on TV.  Was the first repave really needed?

-Before the repave, races for the TV fan would take forever! (But the rough and tumble part of the race was entertaining.)

-Smith added progressive banking to the track in 2007.  The race times shortened up because the number of cautions in a race dropped.  In fact, Bristol became a mini-Talladega.  The TV fan was rewarded with reasonably shorter races with the occasional wreck.

Yet fans started to grumble about the boredom of the cars going round and round.  They blamed the progressive banking.  Attendance started to diminish.  Was the attendance reduction more about how fans perceived the racing or the result of a tough economy.  Both taking place at the same time, I think that's a hard aspect to measure and not relate to each other.  And the economy did start to tank aggressively in 2007, during the first year of the repave.  Attendance everywhere started to decline.

What I'd like to point out is that if you remember when Homestead repaved to progressive banking, that modification was done with race team and driver input.  And that race became pretty interesting on TV.

This latest change, with the removal of the top banking, seems to have been completely fan-driven.  Fans... who have never been in a car on the track. 

Or is Smith saying his first repave was a mistake, and is using the fans as an excuse to fix his goof?

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When a car is by itself, I don't think there will be an issue.  Unless the driver of that car likes the high line, like Dale Earnhardt Jr. does.  He loves the high line on many tracks.  He and others like him will probably have to come off the outside wall to go through the corners.

But when we get 2-wide or 3-wide, that's when I think we'll see the impact of the high, outside line of the track.  My expectation will be that the outside line will be a touch slower.  But I'm not sure how much slower. 

If the repave "leveled" (reduced the angle of) the outside line, I expect we'll see racing like we do at Martinsville.  The outside line won't be able to maintain the speed up top, but with more RPM's, might have the equalizing factor in getting off the corner.  Well, except for the fact that this repave/regrind extended out of the corners and partway into the straightaways, so maybe not.

I really can't wait to see how the racing is impacted.  What I do expect is that this Bristol Motor Speedway repave will make the lower racing groove a highly desirable piece of real estate once again and anyone who gets stuck in the outside line will pay the ugly price of getting stuffed to the rear of the nearest racing pack.

Yea...  this should be interesting indeed!

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