COLUMN: I missed it when they made Bristol generic
A cookie cutter? Bristol? C'mon ...
BRISTOL, Tenn. – In the past year, at least a dozen times someone has either written or said this to me.
“Now Bristol is a 1.5-mile track that’s a half mile around.”
Every time I hear this, I’m confident my face wears an incredulous expression. I can’t believe it. I’d sooner believe it if I heard that Bristol Motor Speedway was now a water slide. Or a theme park: Brutonwood. I’d be more likely to believe the track, 160,000 seats and all, leaped tall buildings at a single bound, or at the very least leapfrogged the nearby drag strip.
Bristol a “cookie cutter”? Bristol generic?
Why, it’s more original than “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and sometimes at night, with the eerie glow of its lighting, it looks as if an alien mothership really did land unexpectedly near the convergence of Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.
Yes, they changed the track a few years ago, and there haven’t been as many wrecks since a tapering of the concrete made it theoretically possible for one car to pass another without knocking it out of the way. Most times nowadays the best driver, not the meanest one, wins.
Those who came to Bristol for the same reason ancient Romans bought season tickets at the Colosseum are sorely disappointed. Nowadays the caution flag doesn’t wave as often. The racing is by no means civilized, but it’s no longer the Gunfight at the OK Corral with tires.
Apparently I’m missing something, though. My brain is processing the data from my eyeballs inefficiently. I still think Bristol has great short-track racing. Others insist they are watching something akin to a replay of Joliet, Kansas City, Atlanta and Las Vegas.
I still haven’t seen “aero push” at Bristol. Apparently, though, I’m paying too much attention to Twitter.
The track still looks so narrow that I wouldn’t want to race side-by-side with lawn tractors.
My delusion is such that I can’t believe anyone would compare Bristol, with its ridiculously high banking, its rugged and rubber-stained concrete surface and its “blink and you’ll miss ‘em” laps, to tracks that are twice as long, three times as wide and four times as boring.
Maybe all those tracks that blur in memory used to be, oh, six times as boring. Recent Bristol races haven’t been the slam-bang affairs of the days of yore, but I kind of enjoy the races being run with precision instead of roughness. I’d rather see the races won by drivers comparable to surgeons instead of butchers.
I’m going to pay close attention on Sunday, though, and try to figure out what I missed. It still seems to me that Bristol on a bad day is better than most other tracks on a good one.
Monte Dutton; 704-869-1841; twitter.com/montedutton