Inside Motorsports

Track ‘fix’ might not solve problem

March 14, 2013 

  • Next race

    Food City 500

    Where: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway

    When: 1 p.m. Sunday

    TV: Fox; Radio: Performance Racing Network

My two cents

What happens if you “fix” the track and still nobody shows?

Unfortunately, it’s a question NASCAR might face head-on Sunday.

A year ago, after a dismal crowd showed up for the spring Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, owner Bruton Smith vowed to change the track after seeking fan input.

Apparently enough fans complained – although later we discovered it was not a majority – to convince Smith to change the surface of the track. Bristol was long regarded as one of the can’t-miss races of the season.

The August night race did not sell out, but was near capacity. Attendance at the night race, however, has never been the problem.

So, here we are again, back at Bristol in the spring and the track is now “fixed.” BMS officials say, so far, tickets sales are ahead of last year’s spring race as well as up for the August night race from a year ago.

It remains unlikely, however, the track will be near capacity for Sunday’s Food City 500, but the August race could well be a sellout.

So what does that tell us? The track never was the problem?

If that turns out to be true, someone is going to learn a very expensive lesson this week.

Despite reviews in the newspaper, on the Internet or in Twitter posts, there are only two real judges of success when it comes to large sporting events – the number of people who buy tickets and show up and the number of people who tune in on TV.

Ultimately, Sunday’s crowd and Monday’s TV ratings numbers will tell the tale.

If the results of the former are not better than last season, I shudder to think of the next round of excuses.

Notes

Clements reinstated

Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements, indefinitely suspended by NASCAR for using a racial slur during an interview last month, has been reinstated after completing a program at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.

He will remain on NASCAR probation until Sept. 13. Clements’ program was administered by Dr. Richard Lapchick at the institute.

“In Dr. Lapchick’s judgment, Jeremy has successfully completed the program,” said NASCAR senior vice president Steve O’Donnell. “We’re pleased that Jeremy has taken these important steps and will return to racing starting this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Another Kenseth racing

Ross Kenseth, 19, son of Sprint Cup series star Matt Kenseth and a student at Clemson, will start his 2013 racing season in Sunday’s Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway in Kinston, Ala.

The younger Kenseth has 25 super late model races on this schedule this season and a new crew chief – NASCAR veteran Kelly Bires.

Vickers debuts with MWR

Brian Vickers will make his first start in the Cup series this weekend with Michael Waltrip Racing. He is sharing time in the team’s No. 55 Toyota with drivers Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip this season.

Last season, Vickers earned three top-five and five top-10 finishes in eight races with the team, including fifth place at this race a year ago.

K&N Pro Series kicks off

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season will begin with a 125-lap race Saturday at Bristol, after the Nationwide series event. Nelson Piquet Jr. was last year’s pole and race winner.

Allmendinger back in No. 51

After a successful outing with the Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Cup team at Phoenix, A.J. Allmendinger will return to the car this weekend at Bristol. Allmendinger finished 11th at Phoenix.

Next race

Food City 500

Where: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Brad Keselowski

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