Sunday, August 26, 2007

What went wrong at Bristol?

After watching Friday night’s Busch Series race at the new Bristol, I very nearly wrote a blog Saturday predicting that I was getting ready to see one of the best Nextel Cup races I’d seen in the nearly 11 seasons that I’ve been doing this.

I was certain that the Sharpie 500 was going to be memorable, given the prospect of having cars race two- and three-wide for 500 laps at my favorite NASCAR track.

When the race was over, though, I was trying to figure out who to blame. Who ruined this race? What caused Bristol to turn into Mini Michigan? I felt like Wilford Brimley in that scene from “Absence of Malice,” when he was telling Sally Field or Paul Newman or somebody that when he left he was going to have somebody’s backside in his briefcase to take with him.

I needed somebody to blame. I know some people think I am crazy. They saw cars running side-by-side at Bristol Saturday night, and they noted that a faster driver didn’t have to knock a slower one out of the way to pass him. This is because, for some reason, they enjoy watching racing a half lap or so away from the leaders. Me? I’ve never understood that.

The drivers loved the new track, thought it was fantastic. Well, bully for them. But they get paid to race, and it shouldn’t be about what they like. I don’t know a whole lot, apparently, but I do know that the more drivers like racing at a place the less likely fans are to want to watch races there.

Racing is about winning, isn’t it? I will guarantee you nobody among the 160,000 fans in attendance sat in hours of traffic afterward talking excitedly about how great it was to see three guys battle for 19th. Fans who see a race at Bristol will go home with great memories, but Saturday night most of those memories were about the place, the hoopla and the pre-race festivities.

The race itself? Kasey Kahne led 305 laps, then Carl Edwards led 182. David Ragan wrecked three times. And that’s just about it. It was, to say the least, a letdown. I spent much of the night and the entire drive home trying to figure out who or what to blame.

The Busch race was about as good as it gets, and that race was held on the same new track and on the same supposedly hard tires that the Cup guys had to race on. The only real variable I can think of is the car of tomorrow, but it seems too easy to lay all the blame at its feet. But I do think that’s part of the problem, and it’s a problem that ought to scare NASCAR to death.

What happened at the front of the field Saturday night, pure and simple, was that while the leader had clean air on the nose of his car he was unbeatable. That’s aero push, and if it’s that bad at Bristol with the COT what’s it going to be like next year when that car runs at California? I’ve been told a thousand times that when you take away mechanical grip, aero grip is all you have. The COT takes away downforce. Harder tires take away grip, too. So when you have less grip from other sources, air winds up being the trump card.

The only time things got a little racy up front at Bristol was when a leader came up on traffic and didn’t have the good air on the nose. So it seems to me that to fix that, you need to give the car itself more grip or give the teams tires that have more of it. NASCAR controls everything about the COT, so if it doesn’t have somebody at its research and development center working day and night on getting more grip into the car, then shame on NASCAR.

I am SO tired of hearing that Goodyear had to be “conservative” with the tire because they didn’t get to test tires on Cup cars before the race at Bristol or somewhere else. Teams pay $2,000 a set for four new tires and the average team gets eight to 10 sets of tires per weekend. Do that math for 43 teams over 36 races and doesn’t it seem like Goodyear could afford to have its own testing program? If Goodyear can’t afford such a program, maybe NASCAR could help fund it, or find a tire supplier than can pay what should be that cost of doing business.

Why doesn’t NASCAR have about five or six people who either still work for Goodyear or once did and who know all there is to know about racing tires working with them on making the COT better? Maybe they already do, but if those guys are already on the job there was little evidence at Bristol that they’re making any headway.

I get a lot of feedback from race fans these days about all of the things they think are wrong with NASCAR. They complain about how much it costs to buy tickets and reserve camping spots. They gripe about the sport being too vanilla, or too politically correct. Television ratings are down, significantly, and NASCAR has all kinds of excuses about why. Fans say it’s because of when the races start, because the broadcasts have too many commercials and annoying announcers or, as happened at the end of Friday’s Busch race, somebody goofs up and turns off the satellite feed.

Frankly, I am sick of all that, too.

Not because fans don’t have the right to complain, but because they’re complaining about a bunch of little stuff that wouldn’t matter one bit if the product was what it ought to be. If a race leader got passed in the final 100 miles of race on any regular basis anymore, would people really care whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the No. 8? If fans felt like races were competitive tests of man and machine instead of a three-hour science class, would anybody be worked up over ESPN missing a restart by two or three seconds? I don’t think so.

So, in a way, I guess I blame myself. Apparently, I haven’t been focused on the right problems when trying to understand what’s going on in NASCAR. I still have to write and talk about whether Joe Gibbs Racing is going to Toyota and about what companies are going to sponsor Earnhardt Jr. in his number whatever car next year. But I promise you that as of Saturday night I am going to spend as much time as I can asking people if the road that NASCAR is heading down is really the road to competitive ruin.

When you mess up Bristol, things have gone entirely too far.


jamie B said...

David you hit the nail on the head.I have been going to Bristol since 1997 and ,after the bush race I could barely wait for saturday nite. Boy was I ever let down. It is usually very "loud" where we park at but saturday nite it was kind of like a funeral it was so quiet after the race.I can't put my finger on it yet on why Firday was so much better than Saturday but, nascar better figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Your article was spot on. I think one problem with the Bristol night race is that it is so close to the end of 'race to the chase'. The drivers have to be so careful not to ruin theirs or someone else's chances of getting into the final 10 race Chase. I am a 30+ year fan that has been continually disappointed in the direction NASCAR has gone in the last few years. I have not left the sport YET, but if something else is going on Sunday afternoons (or whenever the race is on) I certainly consider doing it now. I used to block out time for NASCAR. Not so much anymore...and I do not think that I am alone.

Anonymous said...

i will sell my tickets now

paperbackwriter45 said...

It's sad really. I've always said any track that the drivers like isn't good for the fans. Drivers LOVE the new Bristol. Fans - "Eh".

Drivers like to drive, search for a line, race side-by-side with a car width between them. And now that's what they've got at nearly every track. And now they have a COT that looks like slot-car racing.

What bothers me the most is that the folks at Bristol changed the track "for the fans." Everything said about the track is for the enjoyment of the fans. Yeah, right. How many fans were polled?

Increasingly the the little person doesn't matter in NASCAR and that's not the sponsor, it's not the single-car team owners, it's not the field fillers - it's us, the fans. How about asking us what we want to see? Because this new Bristol is not it.

Change it if you want to (and if you want to lose ticket sales) but DON'T tell me it was on my behalf.

Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct in the statement about "if the drivers are happy, the fans are not" That is true in every form of motorsport I have witnessed. Vegas this year was a good example.

I am wondering if your criticism of Goodyear might be a little off base. I do not know how long in advance GY has to make a decision on what tire to bring to a race weekend, but repaving never wrapped up until 4 or 5 weeks ago did it?

Anonymous said...

Hey, before everybody does a swan dive off a bridge, remember this "ONE" race. Let's see what happens next time around.

Anonymous said...

These races are getting difficult to watch. The last race I completely watched without a "Nascar Nap" was Watkins Glen. The road courses used to be painful to watch and now it's the ovals that are boring to watch.

An easy car to drive on an easy track to drive = happy drivers, but a bad show for the fans.

You know the cars and tracks are getting easier when rookies without experience when in Nextel Cup.

Let's get back to real racing where skill and experience determines who wins races!

Anonymous said...

David, you have to lay part of the blame for this on the Chase. Drivers on the bubble aren't going to risk getting wrecked, nor are drivers that are solidly in. Jeff Gordon is alreay in, so wins are all he goes for now. If he's running 19th he isn't gong to push the issue.

Yes, the new pavement helped make the race the most boring Bristol race I've ever seen. But last year's was boring too, for the same reason: THE CHASE.

Anonymous said...

The first COT race at Bristol in the spring was a snooze-fest. Tony Stewart was driving away with it until a mechanical failure took him out. Hamlin led in commanding fashion until he was sidelined with problems. I actually took a nap during the race, and it wasn't because I had enjoyed too many adult beverages, I was the DD this year. That was the moment I knew NASCAR was killing the sport slowly.

I got out of being a hardcore fan when the Chase format was introduced. Reducing year long contest to a random shootout of who's the luckiest and not necessarily the best goes against my grain. I don't watch any on TV and I attend only one race a year, the first Bristol race, and only because my Mom is a fan and pays of the ticket.

NASCAR has no sense or respect for the history that it created over the past 50+ years. Rockingham, which also produced stellar racing, is on the auction block. North Wilkesboro is rusting away. I'm sure it won't be much longer for Martinsville or maybe New Hampshire...short tracks don't seem to be the thing anymore. The people who run the show and those who drive in it seem to want wide open boring racing, and that's not what I started watching NASCAR, oh those many years ago.

Anonymous said...

I was in the infield at Bristol satuday night. It was the worst race I have ever seen, even some crew members where sleeping on top of tires. I will not be renewing tickets for next year that is for sure. What a waste of a

Anonymous said...

For sale: 160,000 tickets to what used to be the most exciting racing in NA$CAR.

Bristol has always been known for the bump and run, that's pretty much what sold 159,500 of those tickets. "Move" someone out of the the way during every other race on the circuit, lose points, money, etc. Bristol... usually written off as rubbins' racin'.

The best racing in Bristol Saturday night was leaving the track, it took us 3 hours.

The best part of the action inside the track, was the flag card stunt during the anthem. Awesome!

Anonymous said...


Nice job of writing the same story that every other reporter posted online.

It was one race and no it wasn't the most exciting, but how many passes for the lead under green does any Bristol race have. It's not the aero, it's the traffic that makes the race at Bristol.
The leader always clears lap traffic, then runs up on the guys at the rear of the field and either:
They spin each other, battling to stay in front of the leader
The leader spins one of them from the preferred groove because he is getting "slowed up" or
The second place/third place drivers catch the leader and there is contact because there is not enough room.

With the new track, there was plenty of room and not a preferred groove. Also, the tail end cars were able to run the high groove, keep the momentum up and battle like the dickens to stay on the lead lap. It took Kahne nearly 10 laps to get around some of the cars

The bottom line, there was plenty of room to race. It was not a boring race to attend, just not the usual carnage and WWE theatrics.

If someone wants to sell their tickets after one race, I'll take the upgrade.

Don't forget the we also got an entertaining Daytona 500 for the first time in several years

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that what we saw was a new Bristol. Not the racing I have been watching for the past 18 yrs. This was one of the 1st races, I have ever missed at Bristol, don't feel to bad now. It was a waste of time to watch on TV, kinda painful really. My feelings are that Bristol is now a track the Drivers love and most real Bristol fans will hate. Don't think I'll be back. Nap on the couch for free.

Anonymous said...

Folks, we saw a great Truck race Wednesday. We saw 'most' of a great Busch race on Friday (thanks ESPN). We saw a mediocre race Saturday night which was no worse than the March race. In fact, despite how the Saturday night race played out, it was still better than anything I have seen in recent years from Michigan, California, Pocono, Las Vegas...

I for one am going to withhold judgement for another year or two... but those of you who are selling your seats, feel free to e-mail me:


Monkeesfan said...

What went wrong at Bristol? Numerous things -

1 - Bristol is a terrible racetrack to begin with; it's too small, way too narrow, and concrete is garbage as a racing surface. Altering the banking came because people believe the mythology surrounding progressive banking and how it supposedly improves the racing. Yet if one actually watched Tuscon Raceway Park events, the racing WASN'T that good, and Homestead was not improved with higher and progressive banking. So combining a less-than-stellar idea (progressive banking) with a track that sucks to start with was bound to fail. BTW, where was all that side-by-side racing in the BGN race? All I could see was the leaders checking out and not racing anyone until lapped cars hung up Newman enough for Kahne to sneak past.

2 - The cars still have too much horsepower and too little grip. Bristol isn't a drafting track like Michigan can be, so the weakness of the draft isn't an issue here. But having too much horsepower and too little grip means you're not racing other cars as much as trying to stay off the walls, and it remains the truth that good racing comes when dirty air pulls cars forward instead of pushing them back - see BGN on the plate tracks for the most graphic illustration of this.

3 - The Car Of Tomorrow made it worse. By now no one can deny that the COT has made the aeropush much worse than it ever was before. Cutting downforce is a bad idea to begin with, and combining it with a top-heavy roofline, short nose, gapped airdam, longer trunk, and a stupid wing is bound to fail.

4 - The drivers don't care enough to try and win. I get ripped for this a lot, but no one can offer any credible response. If the drivers were really determined, they'd be fighting for the lead much more than they presently do. I watched Bobby Labonte at Pocono in August and he was blasting cars all the way down the straights trying to pass; I watched him at Bristol and he raced his way to the top five before finishing eighth. I didn't see much passion to race from most others all night, and I haven't seen enough determination to win by the bulk of the field for some 20 years now.

Don't blame this on hard tires because they were good with high downforce - hard tires helped boost the sport to 26 different winners among 14 teams in the 2001-2 period; when they took away bump stops, limited sway bars, and cut downforce, that started the collapse of the competitive depth of the field to where there hasn't been a new winning team since the now-defunct Morton-Bowers team won in 2002 and there hasn't been a comeback win since the Wood Brothers in 2001 (I don't count the return of Ganassi/SABCO to victory in this category).

The sport's entire competition package is wrong. What we see at Talladega on a regular basis is what the sport is supposed to see elsewhere on a regular basis, and the sport doesn't even come close to that.

Anonymous said...

Those of you interested in another viewpoint, check out Dave Moody's Blog...

And anyone still interested in selling Bristol tickets (or Dave, if you want to give up your press pass I will write the story on the next Bristol race, free of charge)... e-mail me

The Facts Don't Lie

Some of the more jaded members of NASCAR Nation have spent the last 48 hours bemoaning what they saw as a non-competitive “Sharpie 500” at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night.

David Poole, the esteemed and generally grumpy co-host of Sirius NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive," spent four hours on his soapbox this morning, calling the race one of the worst he has ever seen at Bristol. He lamented the fact that there was just one pass for the lead Saturday night -- that coming when a dominant Carl Edwards took over from an almost-as-dominant Kasey Kahne on lap 371 -- conveniently ignoring the veritable smorgasbord of side-by-side racing that took place throughout the field, throughout the night.

If you're interested, you can get Poole's side of the story HERE. If not, suffice it to say that my friend Poole (and others like him, judging from the Monday morning internet chat rooms) somehow missed all the two and three-wide battling that took place at Thunder Valley Saturday night, apparently unable to concentrate without the constant sensory bombardment of a multi-car pileup every 8-12 laps.

They went to Bristol expecting the WWE to break out, as it usually does. Instead, they were forced to watch a darned good, side-by-side stock car race. And they're none too happy about it, believe me.

For all its volume, however, the "boring race" argument doesn't hold any water.

A quick look at NASCAR’s Loop Data -- compiled and released to the media after every Nextel Cup race -- reveals that a total of 2,147 green flag passes took place Saturday night. That compares to just 991 passes in the "Food City 500" there earlier this spring. For the mathematically impaired like myself, that's a 108-percent increase in green-flag passing from spring to fall.

108 freakin' percent.

Back in the spring, Kevin Harvick started 40th and finished fourth at Bristol, passing a race-best total of 52 cars along the way; more than anyone else on the track. That total would have tied him for 18th Saturday night, far behind J.J. Yeley's race-high total of 107.

Sorry folks, but the facts don't lie. Saturday night's race was a good one, despite offering up "only" eight caution flags for the demolition derby set to enjoy. The packed Bristol grandstands may not have had a dastardly "dump and run" winner to boo when it was over, but that does not mean they didn't see a good race.

Fourth-place finisher Tony Stewart -- frequently second only to Poole on the list of NASCAR insiders most in need of a bran muffin -- said of Saturday's race, “It’s the most fun I've had at Bristol in my career. I can't give it a better grade than an A-plus."

If it's good enough for Tony, it's good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Look, I've had season tickets at Bristol for several years now. I thought I'd never nod off there, but I almost went to sleep Saturday night in the stands. And before anybody says that I'm one of those people who loves wrecks, I'll tell you different. I usually sell my Busch tickets each race so that I don't have to endure 100+ laps of caution. We have one last glimmer of hope before I get really upset--Goodyear had better not bring that same tire back. Tire wear MUST be a factor at Bristol or we're going to watch one or two (the 9 and 99 were in a class by themselves) cars stink up the show each and every time. The August 1999 race was the best race I have ever seen lap after lap. Tire wear played a huge part in the drama of that race. At that time, who would have ever dreamed that we'd see teams decide to stay out with almost 100 laps on their tires. HARD TIRES ARE FOR DRIVING!!! SOFT TIRES ARE FOR RACING!!!

Monkeesfan said...

Those who cite loop data are fools, because scoring loop data counts as "quality passes" lapped cars crowding the leaders. The "facts" do lie, because people's own eyes showed little combat up front and most passing was well behind the top ten. That Kevin Harvick passed a bunch of cars in march says only that he was a lot faster than almost everyone else. What did scoring loop data tell us about battles up front? Where were the lead changes?

Sorry, but this wasn't a good race, not because they had comparatively few wrecks, but because the racing wasn't up to snuff.

Monkeesfan said...

The absurdity of citing scoring loop data.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, but I don't get it. Is it only a race if there are 15 diiferent lead changes? Is a 'race' any better between first thru third than eleven thru thirteen? In my opinion, it beats the heck out of 'superspeedway' racing where cars run 500 miles in one pack. It sounds to me like there are a lot more wreck fans out there than race fans

Anonymous said...

You obviously weren't there, or, if you were, you have been brainwashed by these recurrently generic and politically correct races with well behaved participants. Wake up people!!! NASCAR has commercialized itself to death.

stricklinfan82 said...


Look at the history of the Bristol night race since they concreted the track:

1992: D. Waltrip runs away
1993: Martin beats R. Wallace in a close finish, but it would have been a runaway had Martin not had to make up a 2 lap deficit earlier in the night
1994: R. Wallace runs away
1995: great finish with Labonte and Earnhardt
1996: R. Wallace runs away again
1997: Jarrett beats Martin by a car length
1998: Martin runs away
1999: Labonte/Earnhardt part 2
2000: R. Wallace dominates again
2001: Stewart runs away
2002: Gordon beats Rusty with the bump and run
2003: Kurt Busch dominates
2004: Dale Jr. dominates
2005: Kenseth dominates
2006: Kenseth dominates again

The track was excellent. The tires were very hard, so maybe a softer tire would have helped a little. The thing we have to come to grips with is that sometimes in NASCAR one or two drivers hit the magic setup and run away from the rest of the field, that's just the way it goes sometimes. No matter how many grooves of racing there are you can't guarantee that one guy won't hit the setup and run away with it, it's that simple. Even at Daytona a couple years ago Tony Stewart led 151 of the 160 laps en route to victory.

Michael Waltrip echoes the same thing on Inside Nextel Cup every week, not every baseball game goes to extra innings and ends on a walk-off home run, sometimes you get a 10-1 game. Same thing in NASCAR, sometimes one guy is better than everyone else and there aren't 10 lead changes in the final 50 laps.

Anonymous said...

You're right about one thing. Somebody will always hit the magic setup and be the class of the field. That's fine. I'm happy for them. But, the greater equalizer needs to be the tires. For instance, in days gone past, the leader had to worry about who had fresh tires behind them at this race. That has NOT been a concern for anybody up front for several races now at Bristol. How do you think Labonte got past Earnhardt in 1999 before Earnhardt punted him? Made a hell of a show. Didn't it? So, when you say that tires would have helped a "little", I tend to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Found better entertainment switching to baseball. Less nonsense. First year we've passed up watching Nascar, what a shame.
As far as the COT is concerned, didn't IROC prove similar program a failure?
Hey for fun, switch the Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Dodge decals around and confuse the hell out of everyone. Better yet, Take them off and guess what model it's "supposed" to be.

Anonymous said...

Let me give you a little history lesson. Do you remember how everybody used to say that Bristol could not be won from the backstretch pits (yeah--I know they've changed it now to make it fair for those on the backstretch, but bear with me)? As I recall, Davey Allison did it once and then Earnhardt did it in 1999. It was considered almost a mythical feat at the time. Then, a few years later, Elliot Sadler won from the backstretch after he went way over 100 laps on the same set of rubber while others pitted. Yes, I said "Elliot Sadler". Not to take anything away from that win, but Elliot isn't considered one of the all-time greats in my book. My point is that he did not have to pit for anything (including tires). I was there--there was nothing spectacular about his car. The Wood Brothers just realized that tires were not a factor before everybody else that day. Trust me, that was not the case when Allison and Earnhardt pulled off their wins there. Now, we've got the worst case scenario with an improved smooth track that's more friendly for passing while still using a tire that could last all the way to the moon.

Anonymous said...

To phrase the saying, "All dressed up and nowhere to go" Had all the beer, chips, sandwiches one could think of, friends over and just waiting for what we thought would be the best night racing at Bristol ever. After the Busch race Friday night we were all excited.

3 of us fell asleep just about 3/4 of the way through and not from drinking beer either.....

Anonymous said...

As a NASCAR fan for almost 30 years myself, I couldn't agree more with David Poole. I really don't care about "loop stats" or whatever other data that you'd like to cite. The race itself was a snoozer (yes, I literally fell asleep for a while). There was no drama, no charm, no wonder of what would happen next. It's not the wrecks that we watch for, it's the feeling of unknown, of excitement and foreboding and worrying of if your favorite driver can survive to fight for the checkered flag.
When you take away the drama, what you have left is cars riding around in line. And no, I don't care what happens for 10th place. We want to watch the winners.
I'm looking forward to football starting up next week myself!

Anonymous said...

Only Monkeesfan would post a link to his own blog in an effort to convinceothers that his rantings are indeed fact.

For starters, say what you want about loop data but the fact is it is DATA, and if used properly, it is a very useful tool in objectively studying a situation. The reality is that when you compare the March race with the August race, the variable was the new track surface, not the COT, and that variable produced more than twice as many passes as the previous race. Regardless if you think that the passes were 'quality' or not, the reality is that the data has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that passing at Bristol is now much easier than it was in years past, specifically March. I will admit I would like to have seen the same data from the race last August in the old car to see how the two different styles stack up against each other, but thats not the point of the discussion anyway - although I suspect its no way even close to 1000, let alone over 2000.

Now if everyone could just stop (A) thumping their chests and preaching opinion as fact, and (B) stop skirting the issues and admit the real reason they didnt like the race, we would all be better off. Oh, and the reason I suspect that most of you didnt like the race? The lack of wrecks. Spare me the 'lack of drama', or 'not agressive enough' speech, it was pure and simply there were not enough wrecks. Fine, if thats your definition of a great race, then I can certainly respect that, but I would also suggest that you hit your local dirt track for the demolition derby when it comes to town. I personally like - and this is MY OPINION - lots of jockying for position, something that rarely happens at Bristol without punting someone out of the way. Who would have thought that we would have ever seen 2 and 3 wide racing at Bristol without a major wreck? As far as the 99 & 9 dominating, oh well... it happens sometimes. Kurt Busch dominated a very boring Pocono race a few weeks ago, and nobody complained, just complimented him on how great he did.

And for the record, I was there all weekend - there was action all over the track that TV just cant possibly show; just not a ton of wrecks.

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #28, all I did was point out that the data is worthless because it tries to make the racing look better than it is via statistical sleight-of-hand. The racing was less than competitive because the battle for the win simply wasn't there.

Anonymous #20, it's a race when the battle for the win is intense for the better part of the race's duration. You belittle superspeedway racing where "cars run 500 miles in one pack," as though this isn't fighting for position.

Anonymous said...


That data is far from worthless, as it staistically proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the new surface created a second usable groove. Data is a tool, it can be used to prove or disprove anything, but what it cant - or shouldnt - do is prove an opinion to be fact. Like it or not, there was much more passing Saturday than there was at the March race, I would love to look at the number of passes for other tracks as I suspect it doesnt even come close to 1000, let alone more than 2000. From that perspective, it was an extremely competetive race, just not specifically for the win. If your driver doesnt happen to be driving the 9 or 99, then whats going on behind that battle may be of great interest to you, like where the 'bubble' cars happen to line up. There is more to a race than who wins; Jimmy Johnson won a championship last year by finishing better than 13th; Tont Stewart missed the chase by 16 points. Its all about perspective.

The nice thing about NASCAR is the variety of tracks, I too dont care for the cookie cutter styles; or at least the number that are out there. Sure, 2 or 3 during a season is fine, but as many as we have now?

I love short track racing, I love superspeedways. I tolerate road courses, but I love the fact that there is enough variety out there to please everyone.

Most of all, I love seeing the most talented drivers in the world work their magic on the track, and in my opinion, that does not include running single file for 500 laps at the old Bristol while trying to bump someone out of the way for a spot - that is not racing, that is demolition derby.

I agree with the post that we should reserve judgement on what we saw, I for one loved it Saturday but it may be back to the old Bristol in 2-3 years, so dont give up those tickets yet. On the other hand, now that the drivers got their feet wet, perhaps next year we may see them a little more agressive but with more passing.

Yes, one could argue that the chase is causing those who are in contention to play it safe, that theory will be tested in March 08 when there is still a lot of racing to be done so there is more room for error.

I dont agree that the chase drivers were less agressive, I think tose in the top 8 were fighting for the 10 bonus points, those in 9-12 were trying to maintain distance from 13-15 who were trying for a win; those around the top 35 in owner points were also working for the bigger prize.

All in all - great race!

Sorry David... on this, I disagree!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I thought it was a good race. Lots of racin' and passin', just not a lot of wreckin'. I for one see no entertainment value in wrecks. I'd rather see 2 and 3 wide racing and lots of passes, than a bunch of wrecks. Maybe it 2-and-a-half decades in the emergency responder business, but I get a knot in the pit of my stomach when I see some of the wrecks. The 99 and the 9 were just hooked up. You can blame it on the COT or aero, but the fact of the matter is, they chose a set-up, and they chose wisely. Even when they lost the point in traffic, they were still able to fight their way back. That ain't aero that let'em do that. I don't like a lot of things that NA$CAR has done the last few years, but I think this was something they did right. Yeee Haaaaw!!!!! Send them Bristol tickets to Daddy!!! I'll take'em off yer hands!

Anonymous said...

well everyone pretty well covered all points of can quote all the loop data all you want was still not a great race ...last years night race wasn't either Kenseth dominated...and Stewart would have won this years spring race in a walk except for the fuel pump cable....there is no one thing you can point at but a bunch of things that effected the last three races ...the new surface which is to good..they should make driver unfriendly with some bumps and whoops .. the tires were a factor why doesn't Nascar have it's own test team do all the tire testing in time for Goodyear to gather data and build the right tire..this would help but your still not going to eliminate the 7-0 game when someone hits the magic setup's just part of it...

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #30, the data is indeed useless because it doesn't prove anything. It suggested more passing than in March, but our own eyes showed there wasn't. Racing is ultimately about going for the win, not about consistency. Lead changes are ultimately the only data that matter, and the new surface and the COT have no potential for lead changes.

stricklinfan82 said...

There weren't a lot of lead changes because Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards had the two fastest cars in the field and the pit stop shuffle never got them stuck back in traffic. There was a lot of great racing all over the track. Did anyone notcie Denny Hamlin start 43rd and move up to 6th during the first green flag run? That would have never happened at the old Bristol.

If you want to use lead changes as the only parameter to measure how good the racing was that's your perrogative but numbers don't always tell the story.

Watkins Glen had a lot of lead changes because of the pit stop shuffle but how many passes were actually done on the track without the benefit of the leader spinning out? I believe that answer was 1.

Monkeesfan said...

stricklanfan82, we know the numbers don't always tell the whole story, but that becomes an issue when they are used to inflate a race's competitiveness, which is the case with scoring loop data. All that "great racing around the track" was meaningless because it was for 14th on back.

Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Pocono, and Michigan have combined to break 40 official lead changes some sixty times over the years. Bristol has broken the 40-lead-change barrier, but it only did it once (1991) and only flirted with it one other time (1989). Those are numbers that do tell the story of what great racing is.

Anonymous said...

So, in a way, I guess I blame myself. Apparently, I haven’t been focused on the right problems when trying to understand what’s going on in NASCAR. - Poole

I agree the problems you're focusing on are wrong. (assuming they're "problems.")

Puzzle me this: Everyone is whining about Saturday all the while forgetting about March at Bristol when Stewart Denny Hamlin combined to lead 434 of 500 laps.

Sorry I don't buy it.

The difference between March and Sat were a slightly harder left side tires used Sat and March saw a battle across the line between Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon.

The race was STILL dominated by two drivers but less is said about it being "boring" because of the finish.

NEWSFLASH, racing isn't meant to be all for one all for all, sometimes someone or a group of drivers are JUST better on any given race track on any given day/night.

No racing organization provides more side-by-side racing to the flag than NASCAR. None.

Get over it. And BTW how was Sat different than last August when Matt Kenseth led 415 laps? And he did it on the old surface with the "old car.

Anonymous said...

Do people watch racing for actual racing or just to watch big wrecks? Cause that is the real split. People upset with the changes at Bristol want more wrecking. Is more wrecking good racing? No.

How is Bristol now any different then Richmond? People love going to watch Richmond races for the multiple grooves and side by side racing. People do not go to Richmond to watch wrecks.

Yet at Bristol that is frowned upon. You can't have it both ways. What is good at one track has to be good at others. It was the first race on the new track so some teams figured it out quicker then others did. You will get better races there as teams get better notes and what will and will not work there.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind the three and two wide racing. That was cool to see. I have watched it for at least 10 years now. And I really didn't care for this race. Not because of the lack of wrecks. It was the lack of emotion on the track.

Bristol usually seemed like the track where the racer can get a little payback for what happened earlier in the year. One of the biggest things that come to mind about Bristol, is when Ward Burton threw his booties at Little E. Or Harvick and Biffle being in each others face.

I'm not saying that is what makes it a race. I think it is everything. Wrecks, pits, racing, and the tire/gas. Bristol only had one of them.

Anonymous said...


Were you at either of the Bristol races? I was and I can tell you with 100% certainty that there was more passing Saturday than there was in March. The loop data provided by NASCAR only backs up what I saw with my own two eyes. You are an idiot if you think you can make a statement that there werent more passes if you were not actually there; you only get to see what ESPN chooses to show you, which is usually no more than 2 or 3 cars at once - less than 10% of the action going on at any one time. You are a slave to their decisions on what they want you to see, and its difficult to take anyone seriously who pretends to have more facts than he actually does. You dont like the race? Fine - your opinion. But dont try to fool us into believeing the crap you spew is anything other than uninformed crap.

stricklinfan82 said...


I agree that the scoring loop data goes a little overboard, but I do think the new Bristol surface is a lot better than the old surface because drivers were able to pass more easily (Hamlin went from 43rd to 6th during the first green flag run). You are correct that there weren't many lead changes so on the surface that looks bad but in my mind that wasn't as much to do with the new track surface and the COT as it was the fact that Kahne and Edwards were the fastest cars and never got shuffled back in the pack because the leaders pretty much followed the same pit sequences all night. A softer tire might have created more pit stops and shuffled Carl and Kasey deeper into the field, but the hard tire limited the number of pit stops and kept the two best cars up front all night. In my opinion it was still a good race despite the lack of lead changes, but if you and Mr. Poole choose to judge races only by the number of lead changes then I can understand your disappointments.

It's not like Bristol was a hotbed for lead changes under the old configuration and with the old car either. The 1991 Bristol race that had over 40 lead changes was a complete farce. NASCAR created new pit road and restart rules for that race in which odd qualifiers pitted under the first lap of yellow and even qualifiers pitted under the second lap, and then made all restarts double-file with odd cars on the inside and even cars on the outside. Once they called for the double-up on the restarts the first car on the outside (if he was a lead lap car) was officially scored as the leader during the yellow and controlled the restarts, even if he wasn't the leader at the time of yellow. As I recall Rusty Wallace started on the pole and dominated the first 100 laps but every time a yellow came out Ricky Rudd got to be scored as the leader because he always restarted as the first car in the outside line because he was an even qualifier, so most of those lead changes were literally imaginary.

Anonymous said...

Worst Bristol race ever.. sorry the COT sucks, just like Kyle Busch stated. Biffle said on INC that the cars were to easy to drive. Anytime a car 2 to 3 laps down can hold the leader's faster car back for 20 laps, something is rotten in Denmark, or Nascar in this case.

Anonymous said...

Take those d@#$ indestructible hard tires off those cars and you'll see some strategy and legitimate competition again. The leaders need to worry about who behind them has fresh rubber once again. Right now, tire wear is not really an issue there. Oh yeah, one more thing, when you guys start paying the bill for the four tickets ($504 face value and that's very "cheap" compared to what most people have to pay) that I wasted Saturday night, then you can tell me to get over it.

Anonymous said...

"But dont try to fool us into believeing the crap you spew is anything other than uninformed crap."

That's a quality comment there by someone who only goes as anonymous. And the spelling is as quoted.

Always enjoy it as people jump up and down to SCREAM that their opinion is more valuable than others. Oh, wait, you brought stats? Well, gosh, that changes everything.

Seriously, just settle down and accept the fact that there are a lot of opinions on both sides of the quality of the race.

Hopefully we'll see something that everyone can enjoy in the future and this is only 1 race, to be fair. Bristol's just something that a lot of people don't want to see dramatically change.

And how about posting your name with your comments if you want to be antagonistic?

Anonymous said...


I think three things affected this race.

1) The tires: When BadYear learns to make a racing tire instead of a compromise tire, the racing world will rejoice. I have faster tires on the VW.

2) The track: A new configuration allowing multiple grooves.

Now, both of these were equal for all. Truck, Busch and Cup races. So, if we factor them out we get reason #3...

3) The Chase...The Truck and Busch series don't have a "Chase." For them racing is about the win and getting points. In the Cup it's win if you can or lose as few points as possible. The Chase makes drivers fight to not lose points rather than fight or push issues for a win. Even the last few "Cup" Bristols, on the old track, have stunk because it pays more to save what points you can get than it does to risk all and race for more. JMO


Monkeesfan said...

anonymous #42, we don't need "strategy" from tires, we need tires that make the drivers speed up to go faster, not slow down to go faster. "A softer tire might have made for more pitstops." Why should we really want more pitstops? We bawl out this harder tire, and forget that the sport saw 26 different winners among 14 teams with this tire; when NASCAR took away bump stops, limited sway bars, and cut downforce, not to mention never addressing the drafting effect for intermediates (this as opposed to all those spoiler increases of the 1990s that did address the drafting effect, though not necessarily intentionally), that hurt the racing far more than hard tires.

Anonymous #39, you continue to make the mistake of crediting passing well outside the top dozen with making a great race. That's not how it works and why David Poole nails it when he notes (my butchered rendering of his quote) "When racing for 14th is the best you can offer, you've got problems." I don't try to fool anyone, pal - that's what the loop data is doing, fooling people.

You address that 1991 Southeastern 500 and while your overall analysis is accurate there are some nits to pick - in that first 100 laps (I remember this vividly) Rudd was "scored" as leader because on restarts het got the jump on the outside and beat Wallace to the stripe. The pitstop staggering they had for that race was absurd and it directly put Rusty Wallace into position to - A, erase a two-lap deficit, then erase another two-lap deficit later on, and B, win the race by pulling up to his proper spot in the serial order based on the race's "odd-even" lineup procedure. The regulations were questionable, but the lead changes in that race were not illusory.

Is the new surface at Bristol better than the old one? In the long run it probably is. But is it really helping make the racing better? Right now, no. I'm not that high on progressive banking because it's overrated. People want to criticize gauging lead changes for a race's competitiveness, but come on, no other stat means anything in a race as far as how good it really is.

Anonymous said...

I read in an Associated Press article that what we saw Saturday was racing. Not the bump and run. Remember the saying? Thats Racin'? Rubbins' Racin'?

I thought these guys were known as modern day gladiators. Challenging eachother and the tuffest arenas around.

Now, they claim that bumping and banging is not racing. Well, their right. Actually, its HARD FOUGHT RACING.

Bristol used to enhance the battle. Maybe if they hadn't added 3 extra feet and proggressively banked the turns at 34, 35, and 36 unstead of 28, 29, and 30 it would have worked.

Call them the greatest drivers in the world if you want. They don't race tuff anymore, and the tracks are not challenging.

Old Bristol was a true test, like Darlington, both road races, N. Wilksboro, Rockingham, etc. California, Vegas: just more seats.

Maybe one day, those gladiators will return to contend for glory against eachother and perhaps, the arenas will return to contend as well.

Anonymous said...

It is not Bristol. With the exception of Talledega and Daytona, most of the tracks are boring.
What could possibly be more exciting than 1/2 lap leads,
million dollar drivers trying not to wreck each other, all driving the same cookie-cutter box and fans paying $125.00 to sleep through it?
For forty years I have attended at least five races a year. This year, one, Talledega... next year, NONE.

stricklinfan82 said...


If you need something to blame for the lack of lead changes you should blame the unscripted nature of the sport. The pack racing that you don't want to hear about proved that the COT's can pass on the new track despite the rock-hard tires. Denny Hamlin moving from 43rd to 6th during the first green flag run proved that if you had a fast car you could pass. Had he not blown up he would have been right there with Edwards and Kahne.

Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards led all the laps because they had the two fastest cars, started at or near the front, and didn't have to deal with "racing luck" putting them behind a bunch of slower cars, not because the track/COT/tire combination didn't let the cars race. I truly believe if Kahne and Edwards started 42nd and 43rd they would have still finished 1-2, assuming they didn't get wrecked moving up through the pack.

To me it was a good race to watch because of all the racing throughout the pack. Yes, it would have been a lot better with more lead changes, I'm not going to deny that. I'd love to see every race end in a photo finish and have as many lead changes as Talladega too. However, I'm not going to look for something to blame when the conditions were condusive to a lot of lead changes but racing luck let the two best cars stay up front all night. That's racin'.

Anonymous said...

If we are all going to complain about Bristol as much as has happened, I cant wait to seee what the boards look like after this Sunday night at California. That is if anyone stays awake long enough to watch it, or even bothers to watch it on a holiday weekend.

No matter how bad anyone says Bristol was this past weekend, it will still be 100x better than California. For the record, I liked Bristol, but thats my opinion... I liked it better than watching endless caution laps because there were too many wrecks to actually race.

Lets change the topic - BRING BACK THE SOUTHERN 500!!!!

Anonymous said...

It's been brought up before but there have been plenty of races at Bristol in the past that have been dominated by one or two guys. The only reason no one complained about it was because there were enough wrecks in those races to create the appearance of racing.

Personally, I like the new configuration. I was never a fan of single file demolition derbys. That's not racing. Racing isn't following a guy for several laps until you get tired of following him and knock him out of the way.

I think a lot of things made Saturday's race unpopular(although for the record I liked the race). Most of them have been mentioned but one of them hasn't been mentioned yet. Kahne and Edwards had the two best cars, started up front and stayed up front all night. They never had to come from behind. If they had both had got caught speeding on pit road or had slow pit stops and lost spots on pit road and had to make those spots up on the track then I think that the race would have been much more exciting. But there's not much you can do to make a race more exciting when the two best cars start up front and stay up front all night long.

I remember the last race Bill Elliott won he started last because of an engine change but had by far the best car. If he had started up front then that race would have been a bore and that was at Rockingham of all places.

If the right circumstances occur then any race at any track can be boring. Tony Stewart dominated the 400 at Daytona in 05. I think he led 140 of the 160 laps or something like that, and no one complained about that. Those things can happen regardless of the track. That's just what happened at Bristol.

Anonymous said...

The racing has gotten progressively worse over the past 10 years or so. This is just the culmination of the sterilization that began when NASCAR made the decision to excise all individuality from the sport. Cookie cutter cars driven by cookie cutter drivers at cookie cutter tracks.

Bristol used to be a survival contest. Now it's a snoozefest and has been for awhile. Matter of fact the whole sport has become a caricature of it's former glory, becoming so PC that rubbing up against another car can get you fined. And God forbid that you express any other emotions than that which is approved by NASCAR in advance.

There is no soul in the sport anymore, and the France family are firmly to blame for selling it out from under me. For that I will never forgive them.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Bristol night race in 2004 and it was also a snoozer. BUT if you were a Jr loved it. It went green for many laps and only a couple yellow flags for debri. It's not uncommon for this track to be boring, so I'll hold out my comments till the spring race! If it's another snoozer, then folks, we have a problem. I can't believe the Busch and Truck race were so different. Times like this, I really miss the #3...!
I was a fan of his not in buying a t-shirt but watching him creep up behind someone...and then knowing he would give them a love tap to let them know he was there(as if they didn't see him coming in their mirror) then he would punt them out of the way. Oh, those were the days!!
Hey, any of you fans that want to give up your Bristol season tickets...I'll buy them!!

Anonymous said...

I was at the Nextel race at Bristol & I NEVER thought I would fall asleep at one of these events.... but I did ! I had never been to a more boring race! I WILL NOT renew my tickets, I wont be back ! Yes it may have been good racing for the drivers BUT it was not Bristol ! Bristol "was" the most entertaining track on the circuit. At any point there would be action at every turn , drivers fighting for that ONE lane! Not sure who's idea it was to resurface the track but they made a VERY costly mistake for the SMI shareholders !

google said...

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