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Woody: TV Bumps Bristol For NFL Practice Game

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 23 2011

Bristol Motor Speedway has been pushed aside by television in its own home state of Tennessee. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Nashville’s ABC affiliate Channel 2 will bump Saturday night’s Bristol race in favor of an NFL exhibition game between the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears.

I’m sure there are contractual complications involved, but for whatever reason(s) the decision is telling:

In Middle Tennessee, once a hot-bed of NASCAR racing, one of the most exciting races of the season is bumped off the local network in favor of a meaningless NFL scrimmage.

(Back when I covered the NFL I referred to a pre-season game as an “exhibition” game. I received a snooty note from the league office telling me to please use the proper term: “pre-season game.” Ever since then I make sure to call them “exhibitions.”)

Back to racing: In practical terms Bristol’s bump from ABC is not that big a deal because the race will be carried on ESPN2, available in this area through most cable servers. Most race fans who want to watch the state’s single-biggest sports event will still get the opportunity. (Or listen on radio – a pleasure more fans should try.)

But the message is sublime: what was once the most exciting race in NASCAR is giving way to a televised football practice.

Notice, I said what was “once” NASCAR’s most exciting race. That hasn’t been the case at

Jimmie Johnson leads the field around Bristol during the sprint race this year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Bristol in the last couple of years. There was more action in last Saturday’s road-course race at Montreal than in recent Bristol races.

There are a lot of theories about what’s behind the Bristol blahs. Some say the track has been changed for the worse – it had been the most exciting slab of asphalt/concrete in NASCAR before somebody decided to fix it.

Others point to the decline in racing throughout the sport; they say drivers are simply bringing that ride-around mentality to Bristol.

They can debate the cause but there’s no debating the effect: Bristol’s old-fashioned bare-knuckle racing has been missing.

Nevertheless, to get bumped for a glorified football workout …?

Last month Dover Motorsports announced it is seeking no more NASCAR races for Nashville Superspeedway, its 11-year-old track located 40 miles away in the suburbs.

Bobby Hamilton Jr., promoter at historical old Fairgrounds Speedway, is exploring the possibility of picking up one of the Nationwide or truck races lost at the Superspeedway but I don’t think it’ll happen. There’s too many hurdles to overcome, starting with expensive track upgrades and the fact that Nashville’s recently re-elected mayor is determined to close the city-owned facility.

The first auto race was run in Nashville in 1904 and since 1958 the city has hosted upper-tier NASCAR races – from twice-annual Cup races to this season’s Nationwide/Camping World truck doubleheaders.

Now it appears that NASCAR is gone from Music City, and the area’s once-mighty fan base is forced to watch the state’s biggest race on a secondary cable station.

The landscape indeed has changed.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 23 2011
7 Comments

7 Comments »

  • Figs Off says:

    God forbid ABC should televise Bristol on another one of their multi-many owned stations such as ABC Family, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNwhatever.

    That’s fine that mainstream once again pulls to the left but not to allow any options is again forced domination of what THEY want us to watch.

    Whatever.

  • The Mad Man says:

    I was at the last race before it was reconfigured, which was also the first race for the COT. Fans were sleeping in the stands it was so boring. And as we’ve seen with a number of other tracks, the COT has turned what was once exciting racing into a snooze fest. So for Bristol, the COT really killed the excitement before the track reconfiguration did. By one race. The combination of the two is why fans aren’t showing up at the track.

    What we’re seeing is the results of a move away from real racing with real racers to nice, clean, sanitized-for-your-protection faux racing done by celebrity spokesmen.

  • Al Torney says:

    Calling NASCAR racing the second most popular sport in the USA goes along with their claim of 75 million fans. While the crowds are down they are sure sizable but you can’t compare a Cup race to a local baseball game. You have to add all of the fans that are attending baseball game the day of a Cup race and you have to add all of the fans that are watching baseball games while a Cup race is on tv. In addiition, baseball gets far more media attention then NASCAR ever has. Not only are Cup races shifted around but so are NASCAR support shows. NASCAR Now rates behind thw LIttle League World Series and women’s softball. If NASCAR Cup racing was as popular as they say these things would not ever occur. And forget other media coverage of Cup racing. It hardly exists at all. Most newspapers have laid off their motorsports writers and use AP releases that come out occassionally. Cup racing was growing fast and then it stalled for whatever reason and the game is over. Now they have to maintain what they have. There will no longer be any growth. It will probably go up one year a little and falter the next. I would like to commend Brian and Mike for a job well done.

  • Andy D says:

    Imagine that they pre-empted a conference playoff game in for NASCAR practice. Would the fans stand for it? Absolutely not. There would be three or four articles in every major paper for the entire week. There would be picketers outside the corporate offices.

    NASCAR ranks just below hockey in influence among major American sports. It’s fans are namby-pamby and do little to raise the profile of their sport. They sell out their sport in the Spring to watch Final Four coverage and in the Fall they’d rather watch NFL exhibitions. In the Summer, golf gets higher ratings. With or without Tiger Woods.

    The France family should limit themselves to racing between April 1st and Sept 1st and hope they can convince a network to give them a second look. Stick a fork in Motor racing. It’s over.

  • Jim says:

    The track reconfiguration is what killed the racing at Bristol. The COT is usually the problem at most tracks, but not here. It’s only part of the problem. It starts with the concrete underneath.

    I agree with Joe’s comment. The Modifieds and the Trucks will put on a better show than the Cup cars at “The New Bristol.

    Give us back the old Bristol, where there was some good ol’ fashion short track racing.

  • Dan in NJ says:

    Bristol is also 3 races before the Chase. Drivers who are on the bubble can’t afford to make bump-and-runs for fear of retaliation could end their chase chances.

    On the other side, drivers would prefer not to be the reason why another competitor doesn’t make the chase, and then have to race them the remaining 12 events of the year with that driver having nothing to lose.

    Progressive banking does not mean you have to shove someone out of the way to pass them.

    Wasn’t that the point? At places like Irwindale, Homestead, Iowa where you take the Richmond “short track that thinks it’s a super speedway” moniker, re-surface the track, and make more groves on the racing surface.

    The main reason Bristol sold out was to see the spectacle of short-track racing. Tough, fighting, racing.

    But was it really a race, or just entertainment, that fan’s came to see.

    Guess ABC knows.

  • Joe says:

    Here’s how this week’s races at Bristol will rank in terms of good racing.
    1. Whelan Modifieds
    2. Trucks
    3. Nationwide
    4. Thursday’s transporter parade
    5. Cup