As I listen to everyone talk about the application of PJ1 Track Bite to Bristol Motor Speedway’s (BMS) lower groove in an effort to create multi-groove racing and allow for more passing, I cannot help but think back to just a few years ago when we had great three-wide racing at the famed high-banked short track.
I’m sure you all remember, BMS altered the surface and added progressive banking. The result was fantastic, two and three-wide racing throughout the entire field, including for the lead. What was the response to this great side-by-side racing for which everyone seems to constantly ask? Outrage. Fans complained. There was a constant stream of interviews with fans on local news and racing themed network programming of fans who wanted the old Bristol back.
One fan on a Bristol local news broadcast stated, “We do not want to see three-wide racing at Bristol. That’s not Bristol.”
There was so much attention about this that the track owner, Bruton Smith, implemented a poll asking what the fans want – keep it or change it back. Survey results indicated that approximately 75% of fans wanted to change the track and go back to single groove, bumping and banging. “The race fans have spoken,” Smith said in a prepared statement. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made.” The cost of these changes was estimated at $1M.
Yet, if one listens to racing radio or television programming or reads any racing news websites, it becomes apparent that fans are constantly stating they want better racing and competition. A goal in which NASCAR and the tracks are trying to achieve by utilizing the traction benefits of PJ1 Track Bite. This is completely contradictory from the request by fans in 2012 to change Bristol back to a one-groove track.
Seven-time Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, weighed in on the application of the traction promoter saying, ““In the Driver’s Council meeting after our fall race here, we were all eager to make sure it was back down,” Johnson said in April. “And [we] thought that it did offer more options [for passing] than without it.”
Are the fans supporting this? Have the fans’ opinions changed again? (See the OnPitRoad.com opinion poll)
Some are stating the addition of PJ1 Track Bite is to improve the bottom groove and make the bump and run more likely. But, if the top groove is currently the best groove, and we improve the bottom to “offer more passing options”, doesn’t that indicate multi-grooves and less likely for bump and run?
In this writer’s opinion, the fans want to see three-wide racing in every single lap of every single race, except Bristol, where they want to see crash fest and drivers fighting. This changes up the watercooler conversations and provides variety, because this will allow them to complain about how certain drivers should be kicked out of the sport and that there were too many caution laps. After all, one never wants the conversation to get stale.
I’m sure there will be complaints after this weekend’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race regardless of what happens.
It seems NASCAR, the tracks, the drivers and teams, and sponsors are constantly chasing the elusive unicorn known as race fan satisfaction.
So, let’s add some PJ1 Track Bite to bring back multi-groove racing to Bristol.
Makes one wonder if Smith is wishing he had saved his $1M.