Editor’s note: The debate over racing at Bristol Motor Speedway has raged since the track was repaved in 2007, changing its single-groove dynamics. NBCSN analyst Jeff Burton, who won at Bristol in 2008, was at the 0.533-mile oval this weekend, and he disagreed with the opinions of drivers who believe the high line should be an option. Here are the thoughts of Burton:
BRISTOL, Tenn, – The glory days of Bristol Motor Speedway remain fresh in my mind. The noise from the grandstands during prerace ceremonies was so loud, it felt as if the entire facility was vibrating. You could feel the energy and excitement throughout the weekend.
As a driver, I knew I was in for an extremely challenging event with a good chance that I would be caught up in something that would cost me a good finish. I was nervous, anxious, and damn excited to get it all going. And even though they weren’t driving, the fans had the same emotions.
“It’s Bristol, baby!” wasn’t built on top-lane, multi-groove racing. It was built on a single groove on the bottom.
That was where you had to be, and the race was to get there. Drivers did what they had to do to make that happen.
It was really hard to pass, so you had to move someone or rely on patience and ability to get it done. At times during the race, you had to make a hole to keep from losing everything you had gained through hours of work.
It created the racing that we all clamor to watch. It made winning mean more because it wasn’t just difficult. It was really damn difficult.
So now I hear some claim the track isn’t fun or racy with the groove on the bottom.
Now, I do appreciate multi-groove racing but not at Bristol and Martinsville. The half-mile tracks aren’t 1.5-mile tracks, and that’s why they are special.
I do agree that when the groove moves to the top, it is better to have multi-groove racing, but I don’t think that’s as good as one lane on the bottom.
Let’s remember what created all of the memories and big moments for NASCAR racing at Bristol and Martinsville and understand that the path back to full grandstands and those great emotions at these tracks is clearly defined.
It’s by embracing and remembering what it used to be and doing what it takes it get it back.