After the race at Bristol on March 19th produced lots of long green-flag stretches and many fans dressed as empty aluminum bleachers, SMI chairman Bruton Smith said that changes to the track would be possible before the Sprint Cup Series returned to Bristol in August.
Smith and Bristol announced Wednesday that the changes were in fact a comin'. But what those changes are is still unknown.
"The race fans have spoken," Smith said in a release. "We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. As a result, I have ordered the equipment and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August."
The details of the changes will be announced in the near future.
While it's easy to assume that what is old — a single groove that required drivers to root and gouge for position on the bottom line of the track, resulting in lots of fender rubbing — will be new again with the changes, a move like that would be unprecedented in modern NASCAR.
Like many tracks that have undergone pavement replacement in the last 10 years, when Bristol Motor Speedway was resurfaced, progressive banking was installed in the corners to allow for multiple lines of racing from the top to the bottom. For some, the progressivity of said banking worked too well: drivers were able to run relatively far apart from each other at race pace and the driver on the upper line was able to pinch the driver in the low line off the corners, rendering it impossible to pass inside at times.
But none of the tracks which have recently installed progressive banking have reverted back to a consistent corner banking system. Theoretically, it seems easy to do if that's a potential fix — the gradient would just be raised gradually from the bottom of the surface to match what it is at the top. But that's likely easier said than done — and it's far from a guarantee that the "old" Bristol will return. (Tire compounds and the new car also play a major factor.)
And it's also no guarantee that the grandstands will magically fill up because of the "newer" Bristol in August, either, simply because the costs of hotels in the area and fuel are things out of the speedway's control. The summer night race traditionally draws more than the March race anyway, so August may serve as a practice test of sorts for the 2013 spring race.
Let's have it. How pleased are you that Bristol is going to make changes with the track? Do you think they're needed? Do you think they'll be impactful? You know where to let us know below.
- Bruton Smith
- Bristol Motor Speedway