Nobody many know what the racing will look like on the altered surface at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway this weekend but that won’t keep snap judgments from being made after the race as to whether it was a success.
The problem is Bristol may be in a no-win situation.
Already it looks very unlikely Bristol will have anything close to a sell-out on Saturday night and in the past, even when the March race under-performed, the summer night race still sold out or came close to it.
So with the very public way track owner Bruton Smith went about ordering the changes to the track, if the crowd Saturday night is down from last year, does that mean the move was a failure?
It will be very difficult to tell.
Whether some want to believe it or not, the economy still drives many of the ticket-buying decisions in NASCAR right now. People have more disposable income these days, but it’s still a big decision on how to use it.
Lower ticket sales could easily be attributed to economics, but that same argument was made for the lower attendance at the past two spring races and nobody wanted to hear that. The answer was only “fix the track.”
The progressive banking added to the track in 2007 produced side-by-side competition in which passes could be executed without re-arranging a competitor’s doors and fenders and lately had reduced caution periods. Although, the results were different depending on which NASCAR series was competing.
If the racing is deemed “great” on Saturday night, perhaps fans will overlook empty seats. Those who didn’t want a change, to be sure, will look to those seats as proof the changes didn’t increase attendance – which, in public comments at least, was what was said to prompt the change.
Last week’s Sprint Cup race winner, Greg Biffle, called the reconfiguration “a shot in the dark.”
He’s right. On Saturday night, we’ll see what – if anything – it hit.