Friday, November 02, 2007

Trying to tell why one is a bad guy and the other so good

FORT WORTH, Texas - I will say this for Bob Bahre. The guy sure is one heck of a skater. My first year covering NASCAR for The Charlotte Observer was 1997. The fall before that, the Cup Series went to North Wilkesboro for the last time.

A whole lot of people were just fighting mad about losing that track from the schedule. I understand why people who live in and around Wilkes County would be upset, since it was a big deal to lose those races. I understand why fans hated to lose what they considered an old-time short-track, too.

What I never did understand, though, was how Bruton Smith came to be the devil in that whole deal. Maybe I don't know the whole story, because I did come in near the mdidle of it, but my understanding is that Smith and Bahre each bought 50 percent of North Wilkesboro.

So Smith took one date to Texas, Bahre took one race to New Hampshire and North Wilkesboro closed. Everybody seemed to awfully upset with Smith, but nobody seemed to be particularly worked up about Bahre.

Didn't they do the same thing? Weren't they equally to "blame" for harvesting the corpse of a dying track that time and progress had passed by? Am I missing something there?

I went to New Hampshire for the first time and when people up there said Smith's name, it was like they were spitting out something that had a horrible taste. But butter wouldn't melt in their mouth when they were talking about Bahre.

It was like Bahre had done the sport a service, while Smith had poked it in the eye with a really sharp stick.

Which brings us to what was announced Friday - Smith's purchase of Bahre's track for $340 million.

The general speculation is that Smith will take one of New Hampshire's dates and move that to Las Vegas. That may not wind up being what happens, but if it is you can bet your butt that the race fans in New England will put the blame for that right squarely on Smith's shoulders. And that Bob Bahre will skate on it once again.

Don't get me wrong. I completely understand that Bob Bahre is the man who brought NASCAR racing to those fans. I also understand that he has helped dozens and dozens of racers with his support of series like the Busch East (formerly Busch North) and the modifieds.

But things are going to change, one way or another, over the next few years at New Hampshire.

Either one (probably) or both (unlikely, I think) of the track's dates are going to be plucked away, or just about everything from the number of suites to the size, shape and characteristics of the track itself is going to be altered. In fact, it's likely that some combination of all of that will happen.

Every change the fans don't like will be because Smith screwed it up, and everything the track "used to do" will get better and better as it fades into the past.

And Bob Bahre, with $340 million in his bank account, will skate off into the New England sunset.


Uncle Dewey 88 said...

Your point is well taken. I too, bought into the Bahre good guy, Bruton bad guy. However I do not now believe, nor did I believe then that NHIS should have gotten a second race. I really don't like the Chase begins at NHIS. It has seldom produced anything like a good race from a fan viewpoint.

Perhaps it would make a better schedule to start the Chase at TMS and put a second Vegas race in the current TMS slot.

On the other hand, I really don't think Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte should all be in the Chase. They look alike, in my mind they race alike and become less interesting to view. Perhaps put Sonoma in the Chase, hmm I like that theory. That would be a discussion for another day.

David said...

I think part of the problem was that Smith and Bahre were mostly buying the dates and then refused to allow anybody to use the track for other events, and refuse to sell it for any reasonable price. The speedway is sitting idle, rotting away and the situation is kind of rediculous.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you ask a real nascar reporter like Tom Higgins about the wilkesboro. In short, Bahre wanted to keep the track open, but with only 50% ownership he needed Smith's OK. Smith basically said no way in hell, because he had a feud with the Staley, jsut like he has a fued with everyone, the Frances, the city of Charlotte, etc. Without being able to use his date at wilkesboro, Bahre reluctantly took it to nhis, but he'd rather have used it at wilkesboro. since 96 bahre has tried to get bruton to come to an agreement to get local racing or minor support series back at wilkesboro, but smith would not budge

btw, in all this, Bahre now becomes the bad guy as well. He bought the Staleys' stake in wilkesboro on the promise he would never, ever let bruton smith get control of the track, because bruton's intent, all along, was to shut down wilksboro becuase it took fans away from his yawner of a track in charlotte

Monkeesfan said...

First of all, New Hampshire earned its way onto the Winston Cup tour by proving it could draw excellent crowds for support series. Unlike Texas, New Hampshire didn't buy its way onto the tour.

NHIS deserved a second date; one should keep in mind that Bob Bahre tried to keep North Wilkesboro open for BGN and Truck races but was overruled by Bruton Smith. It was Bruton who kept North Wilkesboro closed, not Bahre.

Bruton Smith is the bad guy here because he's always been about his own sense of spectacle more than the true good of racing. His speedways are ridiculously opulent palaces catered more toward the rich condo buyers and luxury suites than to the core audience. SMI's purses are notoriously overrated - Dave Marcis in particular always pointed out the shortcomings in Bruton's purses; whenever queried by SMI about improvements needed, Marcis always said, "Pay a better damned purse."

Bruton has never learned that more often the best approach to a speedway is to leave things alone. When he got around to changing Atlanta, he made it too fast; it wore in multiple grooves in spite of Bruton, not because of him, and attendence is now a joke there. Texas was such a fiasco he barely escaped losing the one date he had there for 1999; he was fortunate Mike Helton lacks courage. His Charlotte changes are infamous failures - you don't hear the term levigation anymore, do you? Sears Point got The Chute and it backfired; he altered that and it still isn't a good speedway. He banked up Las Vegas and all it's done is made it faster; it doesn't have beter racing. Bristol had become a joke before Bruton bought it; now it's a palatial insult to racing, the earthy charm it had under Larry Carrier replaced by cold oppressive opulence.

And sometimes Bruton is the ultimate hypocrite - when he offered to pay to reduce Talladega's banking because it was "too dangerous", he conveniently forgot the mini-bloodbaths Texas and Charlotte have had in the restrictor plate era - Talladega has been a lot safer than his tracks.

It is impossible to see any good for New Hampshire to come out of Bruton Smith buying it.

Anonymous said...

Thank You David for remnding me WHY I have great disdain fir Bruton Smith!
Monkee's fan...nothing good can come from this, My bet is one date(Sept) goes to Vegas...THEN the flip the dates (Sept/Texas) and (Nov/Lost Wages)...Beezlebub mentioned that White tail Deer season coinsides with the current Texas date...he's figured Texan's out already! #5

Anonymous said...

Bruton was the "bad guy" because he wouldn't keep N. Wilksboro open. If you have ever had he pleasure of meeting or knowing Bob Bahre you know why he wasn't then nor ever will be the bad guy. He's a real person and a true pioneer. He was the man who made Oxford Plains Speedway the premier short track of America and he's the man who gave New England Winston Cup/Nextel Cup/Sprint Cup and gave it to us in style. He hand built that track. No fancy engineers, he did this his way. I'm hoping that the friendship that has happened between Smith and Bahre the past couple of years, after many years of not liking each other, will make NHIS (NHMS) survive. 26 consecutive races have sold out. New Englanders are upset, and I mean really upset, that Bahre is stepping down and Smith is taking over. This track has been enjoyed by a sell out crowd (with a waiting list for tickets) for 17 years!

Anonymous said...

I too am scared to death about NH losing a second date. I see nothing good about Bruton Smiths tracks, the only race in his collection even close to being worth watching is Britol, and its not nearly what it used to be. Atlanta and Charlotte never sell out, and the races are at least as boring as NHs (if you want to use that argument). The only reason I would attend a Vegas race is because its in Vegas; Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta arent even close to being on my wish list of tracks to visit.

NH fans are some of the most loyal, passionate, knowledgable race fans out there, and selling out 100% of the races there should back that statement up.

I suppose if the choices were selling to Bruton Smith or to the Kentucky track, Bruton would be the better choice as Kentucky most certainly would have moved both races. I have to admit, I had hoped that Roush-Fenway would have stepped up to the plate, only because it would have provided some assurance we would keep our two races.

I still have a pit in my stomach, bt also keep hoping that the 'right' thing will be done - perhaps an Atlanta date going to Vegas instead, or perhaps NASCAR stepping in and telling Bruton that NH is an extremely important demographic and he cant move a race... but I'm also not stupid enough to think that either scenario will occur.

Sad day, indeed.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Friday in Texas proves what many knew all along - that Bahre and Smith are both liars and, like The Rock,that Smith's intent all along was to close and destroy North Wilkesboro.

Anonymous said...

I agree Dave that New Hampshire is looking like a Dieing Star.They talk about Kentucky,Memphis, Etc.I never did understand how they could leave out Bristol & Daytona out of the Chase.Nascar is a big Mess.

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #9, Bristol and Daytona don't belong in the Chase.

NASCAR is a mess because the competitive product and competitive system have deteriorated - too many cars controlled by too few owners, too few winning teams, too little hard racing up front, an economic system that makes no sense and which prevents almost all the teams from making any mone, and the sport lets itself get bullied by Bruton Smith.

Anonymous said...

Let's just end this and do the inevitable--The Bruton Cup Circuit.

Oh yes, I agree with the writte to wrote about Bruton's feud with the Staleys. No one is a good guy when BIG bucks are concerned, but that feud is well known. Sad, but true.

Anonymous said...

Were any of these people watching the same race I was yesterday? NASCAR may have some problems but Bruton Smith isn't one of them. Tracks like NHIS and the boring races twice a year there are a problem and I for one like the idea of Vegas getting a second race and TMS opening the chase. Do you not remember the snooze fest that was the Sept NHIS race? If you want NASCAR to be "the way it was", patronize your local short tracks. I want the big event experience I get at TMS or Daytona.

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous #12, Bruton Smith is a big problem for the sport because he never leaves things alone; all he does is screw up perfectly acceptable racetracks, put in stupid gimmicks, and ruin good markets. "Tracks like NHIS are a problem." No they aren't because they're better than anything Bruton has - NHIS has more room to race than Bristol.

The idea of Vegas getting a second date is ludicrous because it's a transient market, not a racing demographic. Bruton talks about the 150,000 hotels there; they're not relevent to anything because it's the demographics that matter. NHIS is a racing demographic, Vegas isn't.

"DO you not remembere the snoozefest that was the September NHIS race?" Oh, compared to the snoozefest that was either Bristol race or the Vegas 400 or just about any race at Bruton's tracks this season?

"I want the big experience I get at TMS or Daytona." What's so special about TMS anyway? It did not enter the sport legitimately and has never had one memorable NASCAR race.

Anonymous said...

Uh, excuse me, but I seem to remember that it was Bob Bahre who said he'd never allow racing at North Wilkesboro again during his lifetime. NOT Bruton Smith. I have no love for Bruton due to his complicity in the whole NW deal; however, it was Bahre who wouldn't allow any racing there when Bruton wanted to have it.

Monkeesfan said...

cheryl, it was Bruton Smith who said that, not Bob Bahre.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Poole,

You're a fat piece of sh|t, and your coverage of NASCAR is at least 4 car lengths behind PATHETIC

Monkeesfan said...

GooGooCluster, exactly what issue do you take with Poole's coverage?

Monkeesfan said...

One other thing - I read Darrell Waltrip's little piece about the purchase and about how it's a "win-win" for the track and for Bruton, because of what he's done to Vegas, Bristol, etc.

Can anyone name one change he's made to any of his tracks that was positive or that needed to be made? I can't think of anything he's ever done besides screwing up perfectly acceptable speedways.

Anonymous said...

As for Bruton and North Wilkesboro. Does anyone know why he closed it? Yeah, sure he probably was a greedy SOB and wanted a date sooner than France would give him one for Texas. BUT! If Bruton kept NW, was there enough room or land to expand? Sure he could have built more seats but then you have to have the land for all of the parking and camping, that, let's say 20,000-50,000 more people would have needed. Was extra land available to him? Or did the County or City say NO? Does anyone remember poor tickets sales at NW? I didn't think so. As for the Rock...Poor ticket sales! Now, the pathetic quality of racing that NASCAR is producing. Funny how one team has been dominating for years, one brand dominating for decades, let foreign junk into NASCAR and you get poor TV ratings that drop every race every year. I am glad they no longer get my money and I watch just the last few laps anymore.

Anonymous said...

For once, I completely agree with Monkeesfan... and its not because I am from NH.

Charlotte - boring races x2 and no sellouts

Atlanta - boring races x2 and no sellouts

Texas - boring races x2 and no sellouts (dont tell me the deer will all be shot by the time the race is over!)

Vegas - boring races x1, I would only use the race as an excuse to go to Vegas but am way more likely to continue to spend my money at NHIS (which I refuse to call NHMS). And oh by the way, not that it matters, but if one of the NH dates goes to Vegas, I wont ever visit any of Brutons tracks or watch any of the races on TV.

NH - racing has been getting better, and 100% of the Cup races have SOLD OUT and thats not likley to change any time soon.

IF it were up to me - and I am just a poor old racing fan that nobody (NASCAR or Bruton at least) cares about - I would move one of the Atlanta dates to Vegas.

Oh well... just my 2 cents, as opposed to 2 billion...

Anonymous said...

NW and at least 1 race at the Rock probably did need to go for the good of the sport - but that does not mean that Smith needed to destroy the tracks, as he has done with Bahre's help, and hurt many small businesses in the areas. Smith just wanted to destroy any tracks in the area that might in any way compete with Harlotte Motor Speedway. People in Wilkes county have tried to buy the NW track to try to revive it and help the local economy, but good neighbor Smith and Bahre are asking an unreasonable $12,000,000 to make sure NW stays closed, and no longer do any maintenance there.

Anonymous said...

Bruton Smith is a fat, pompous toad. Give Bruton half the drivers and the Frances the other half and just be done with it. They can really screw it up and make conferences out of it and then put the chase together at the end.
That would be the all-time cluster and should effectively put the death-blow on the sport so that it could start over.

Anonymous said...

Bahre did what was in the best interest, for his track, in the NW deal. But, Bruton didn't need Bahre's help to shut down "the Rock."

Rockingham had some of the best racing, but terrible scheduling. It's hard to sell tickets to an event when the teperature is in the 40's and the wind is blowing 20 mph or if the race weekend's forecast is "raining like cats and dogs."

Monkeesfan said...

anonymous #19, Bruton closed North Wilkesboro out of spite. The track could have added seating, and in fact had been doing so, just not doing it too fast as Bruton even then was doing to his tracks. Bruton talks today about how there wasn't adequate sewage there, but that's BS.

NC Race Fan, exactly why did North Wilkesboro and a race at Rockingham have to be sacrificed for the good of the sport; if they were still on the schedule, what harm would have come to the sport? We've seen the harm that's come from adding tracks in bad demographics - Fontana barely sold out before and doesn't anymore; Vegas sold out for awhile but I don't buy that it does anymore, not with Bruton closing off backstretch grandstands at Texas and Charlotte with gigantic sponsor signage and tearing down the "backstretch" stands at Atlanta after that hurricane; Chicagoland reportedly pads its attendence with corporate bulk-buys and giveaways (Vegas I suspect does likewise).

Rockingham's scheduling wasn't an issue in the 1970s, 80s, and most of the 1990s; it only became an issue because people were looking for an excuse to kill it.

Anonymous said...

As Richard Petty has said many times "There are a lot of places we don't race anymore." To grow the sport, NASCAR probably did need to go to otner, new places more than NW and The Rock. My point was that nevertheless racing at The Rock and NW did not need to be sacrificed, except for the perceived good of Charlotte Motor Speedway - and Smith and Bahre lied and lied to cover up the fact that they were killing the tracks for their own good - and, yes, Bahre had nothing to do with The Rock. Smith and Bahre kept justifying the death of NW on the basis that they could not do business together. In fact, I have heard Smith say he had plans for NW, but he would not say what they were or try to put them in place as long as Bahre was involved - and Bahre said he could not sell to Smith because he had made a promise to Mrs. Staley to not sell to Smith, which Bahre's recent sale of 1/2 of NW to Smith would show was always a lie. Smith and Bahre are BOTH the bad guys as far as the death of the track at NW.

Anonymous said...