What’s Wrong With Bristol Motor Speedway? One Word, Intensity

[media-credit id=5 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Several years ago the idea of empty seats at Bristol Motor Speedway would have been considered blasphemy. How in the world could a track, where tickets were often the focus of divorce proceedings, have not just one empty seat, but thousands?

Purists point to the redesigned track and the new multi-groove racing we see now twice a year. Optimists state that it is merely a reflection of both the national and local economy and that in time it will bounce back. In reality, it is more likely a combination of changing a spectacular product at precisely the wrong time.

While growing up, Bristol had an aura about it. Sure Daytona was the sports big shiny stage and Darlington was mythical in its stories, but Bristol… that’s where the ‘real racing’ was. As the years wore on, the media would play off of this notion which caused it to grow even further.

American Muscle

And, to be honest, the fact that Dale Earnhardt was involved in two of the most well-known finishes at the track merely fueled its expansion.

Alas, times change and the track owners decided that Bristol was in need of a face lift. Visually the track would look the same, but the character of it would become more polished. What followed after that first race was, perhaps, more unexpected than anticipated.

The racing we see today at Bristol is vastly different to the races of old. Multiple lanes provide drivers ample opportunity to snake their way up and down Bristol’s high banks, seeking a way past a competitor. It is not necessarily bad racing, but it is not the Bristol that fans had come to know and love.

It used to be that 500 laps at Bristol was an intense experience for both drivers and fans alike. A sense of the unknown and of excessive anticipation hung like a cloud over the speedway on race day. It was something that fans would feed off of and, I venture, is mostly responsible for packing those 160,000 seats year after year.

One never knew if Carl Edwards would simply dive into turn three on the last lap to give Kyle Busch a nudge. It could be for first place, or it could be for twentieth, and for the fans it honestly did not matter.

Some call it dirty racing, while some do not call it racing at all. That was racing at Bristol though, good ole boys duking it out Saturday night style in front of 160,000 screaming fans.

That racing no longer exists, nor will it most likely ever come back. The product the track produces has changed; the intensity is no longer present which leaves previously conditioned fans hungry for more.

In time, the fans will come back as they grow accustomed to the new Bristol.

Until that point, and from now on, we’ll have to live with the comparisons and recognize the difference between the two. The old Bristol’s legend will continue to grow as the years wane, perhaps growing in grandeur as well while fans continue to miss that intensity and anticipation.

Do not discredit the racing at the new Bristol, however much disdain you may have for it. For as long as drivers like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards lurk among Bristol’s high banks, there will always be a chance that another driver will have their cage rattled.

Because for all of the complaining, that’s what fans truly want… right?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


  1. @steveo,
    Edwards didn’t put the bumper to Kyle because there were too many laps left in the race and had the caution come out again kyle would’ve wrecked Carl and he would’ve finished 25th instead of 2nd. It was too early to make that move. That would’ve been the same under any configuration and any point system. There were just too many laps left to wreck Kyle for the win.
    For those that are hating on the racing at Bristol. I won’t deny that the fender rubbing and beating and banging and rooting the guy out of the way was exciting. But I have to be honest with you. Seeing two cars battle side by side, rubbing fenders, to me is just as exciting. The racing was great all race long. Sure, it would have been nice to have a late race caution to bunch the field up so someone could have another run at Kyle, but I’d say that about anywhere that Kyle was going to win.

  2. The Chase is what killed the racing at this track, not the new configuration. But people say its the track but they both happened at the same time. Take for example Edwards this weekend. He prefered to ride around in 2nd instead of mixing it up with Kyle at the end because he didn’t want to waste a good points finish. That’s the mentality of todays’ Nascar Cup driver.

    The August race its even worse because its 2 races before the Chase begins and everyone is careful and conservative. Don’t want to ruin anyones Chase chances after all.

    I would be willing to bet that if they get rid of the Chase, the racing at Bristol would improve and guys would go for it more. As it is now, its just guys driving around trying to stay out of trouble and move on to the next race. Boring!!

  3. I have been to both the old and new Bristol and all I can say is, ” they freakin ruined that track!” The drivers used to have to fight and claw their way to the front like real men. Now? YAWN! Its like watiching cars on I-40 but cheaper. Hey Bruton, spend some more of those $ you have and bring back racin’ the REAL way it outta be!

  4. Summed it up perfectly, Jory. They better be having the old track’s blueprints close at hand ’cause it’s gonna be needed if they want to sell out ever again.

    • I’ll always prefer the old Bristol the way it used to be. That was the track with it’s extremely unique personality that I fell in love with.
      The new Bristol offers good racing but its just not the same.
      What really gets me is that at the height of it’s popularity, selling out 160,000 plus per event, some fat headed stuffed suit with too much money and ego, decided they could change it up and make it even better, altering what was the most action packed, temper inducing bull ring on the schedule, into something of his own creation. …oh the audacity…
      ..again, the new Bristol isn’t bad, in fact its pretty good, its just so totally different than before, …and… hard to accept if like me you enjoyed and miss the old one so much.


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