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Woody: It’s Crunch Time For Sprint Cup Series

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 19 2009
Racing returns to Bristol Motor Speedway at just the right time. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Racing returns to Bristol Motor Speedway at just the right time. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer

NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow hasn’t been able to liven up the show but maybe a visit to the Track of Yesterday will do the trick.

There’s nothing like a hot Saturday night at Bristol to get the juices flowing and the sparks flying, and if this weekend’s race can’t get pulses pumping maybe it’s time to take up cricket or lawn bowling.

Bristol Motor Speedway is a time machine. Polished, sophisticated racers roll onto the track and suddenly revert into raving moonshine runners.

Bristol’s motto is: “Racin’ the way it oughta be.” They got that right. The kind of old-fashioned beat-and-bang action that Bristol offers is what made the sport popular. If you want finesse go watch ball-room dancing; if you want to see a stock car race go to Bristol.

Frankly some of the recent Bristol races have had a lapse in action, but even so there’s still more excitement per square inch than at any other track with the possible exception of Talladega.

The difference in Bristol and Talladega is that at the former you don’t have to hold your breath for three hours. Bristol racing is wild and rugged but for the most part the cars remain earth-bound. At Bristol Carl Edwards’ car may resemble a crushed tuna can after the race, but at least fans don’t have to worry about Carl’s manifold landing in their lap.

Bristol races are typically 160,000-seat sellouts. As other track struggle with sagging ticket sales you wonder what part of “action” they don’t understand? Fans love the kind of bare-knuckle racing Bristol offers, so why, when a new track is built, doesn’t someone swipe the Bristol blueprints?

Instead, they keep cranking out predictable 1.5-mile clones that offer predictable racing. At Bristol the only thing that’s predictable is that the wrecker driver will get plenty of TV air time.

Instead of building more square wheels, why don’t track developers build more Bristols?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said last week about 95% of the racing nowadays isn’t worth the price of a ticket and he’s correct. Most races follow a predictable pattern: an exciting start, following by laps and laps of riding, concluded with a few laps of frantic racing. There’s not a lot meat in the sandwich.

At Bristol there’s no place to hide. Get going or get run over. If you cruise you lose.

Add the fact that the chase to the Chase is winding down – just three more races to set the field, with a half-dozen drivers squirming on the bubble – and Bristol’s hot & spicy racing becomes even zestier. Along with the tire smoke, there’ll be a sense of urgency in the air Saturday night.

It’s Crunch Time at Bristol. In more ways than one.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 19 2009


  • LostFan says:

    Go ahead. Build up the anticipation….
    Make us all ready to sit on the edges of our sofas and recliners as our heartbeats elevate and our nerves reach a fever pitch.
    Enourage us to expect a splendid and magnificent pageant of explosiveness because all tickets to the Bristol night race have been sold.

    You can do these things and you can hope for the best, but you cannot make people care when they just don’t want to anymore.

    Racing has become passe’, irrevelant, boring and meaningless and its personalities have exhausted most of their good will.

    The “Bumper Car Party” is just about over, and its tragic wastefulness is repulsive.

  • SB says:

    If only that was still true at Bristol. Since introducing the ‘chase’, the COT, and repaving (and reconfiguring) the track, Bristol just isn’t the same. Drivers in the top 12 are busy protecting their points. drivers out of the top 12 don’t want to be blamed for knocking someone out of the chase. Bristol now has 2 racing grooves, which makes it more like MIS with traffic than the beatin and bangin that used to be Bristol. Last year I left the race with 85 laps to go…too hard trying to stay awake long enough to get back to the motel. The excitement had drained out of the crowd after the first 200 laps. This year I sold my tickets, and won’t renew them for next year. I never thought the day would come when going to the night race at Bristol would be anti climactic.