I usually don’t like to discuss the previous week’s race, but in this instance I must.
We’re talking about Bristol Motor Speedway, the very foundation of what is left in today’s NASCAR that links all the traits of yesteryear’s greatness with today’s modernization of the sport. There was always one race a year you could count on as a fan to give us a blast from the past; some semblance of the old era gone wayside.
Now, all that is gone. The new multi-groove configuration of Bristol brought the famed track into the new era that we have seen so many follow. Bristol now is nothing more than a "vanilla-fied" version of its former self. What once was the greatest most sought after ticket due to the quality of racing is now nothing more than an equal version of racing at Dover.
It’s not that racing at Dover is all that bad, but races at Bristol had a personality unlike any other. Amid all the cookie cutter tracks that have sprouted up like weeds in NASCAR, Bristol was a place where we could see their slogan, "Racing The Way It Ought To Be."
Watching green flag runs lap after lap where we saw two drivers lead over 480 of the 500 laps is not what Bristol is about. However, the drivers all couldn’t be happier. Everyone praised the new track saying how great the racing was, but that is to be expected. The drivers love the new tracks that make it easy to maneuver and calculate.
The modern day driver cites the reason for anyone’s displeasure with the new configuration as being just because they want to see wrecks. It’s not about wrecks, but merely about seeing tough racing. I want to always have that comfort of seeing a Bristol race under the lights with the same conditions that Junior Johnson or Cale Yarborough did. It gave us all a feel for what NASCAR was and is about like a Saturday night special at any bull ring in America.
NASCAR has gone overboard with the boring cookie cutter tracks, and for some reason they don’t seem willing to listen to the fans as to what kind of racing they want to see. They listen to the drivers, who praise each and every one of their boring tracks because they are easy to drive. We saw unique tracks Wilkesboro and Rockingham depleted from the schedule over the last 15 years in favor of facilities like Kansas, Chicago, and Texas. These are all 1Â½-mile tracks that take little imagination into pre-race setup because they are so similar to so many others.
Cutting to CalThis week the series rolls into California, another cookie cutter where the fans in that area don’t even attend. It’s the second race of the season for that track. The first was attended by a mere three-fourths of capacity at a track that only seats 80,000. Labor Day weekend was always a staple in NASCAR history with the Southern 500. Instead, NASCAR saw fit to eliminate the longest running race at one of the toughest tracks (Darlington) in favor of boredom where nobody in the Fontana area really cares.
I don’t believe I am alone in my distaste for the current cycle of happenings in NASCAR with their choices, but they don’t seem to care. The fans that have made their sponsors the most recognized of any sport today, who have been the most loyal buyers of NASCAR products, are being taken for suckers by not having their voice heard.
The Bristol night race used to be the most sought after ticket on the circuit because of how different it was from all the other races. Now it’s just like any other race.
Despite my rant, I still love everything about NASCAR, even this week’s race in California. I’d prefer Darlington, but what can I do? I can protest and not watch, but that’s not likely to happen, I need my NASCAR fix and I count on them weekly to appease my sporting interests along with baseball. Without NASCAR on the weekend, I am a wandering soul. Just take a look at me in November.
For California this week, you can take a strong look at what happened in Michigan last Tuesday. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the two tracks are identical sister sites built by Roger Penske. Not so coincidentally, Penske’s Kurt Busch dominated the Michigan race and it wasn’t even that close. Because the two races are so close together, you can expect Busch to be almost as good as he was two weeks ago.
The ink on the notes from that race has barely dried.
Jimmie Johnson is a driver that is in desperate need for a good run and California should be a place that gets him back into the groove. At Michigan, he had his best run ever there and should be poised to carry that momentum into a track he’s had success.
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