SBD/March 19, 2012/Events and Attractions

Attendance For Bristol Motor Speedway's March Sprint Cup Race Falls Short Again

Estimate for yesterday's race was 102,000, down 18,000 from last year's official estimate
Sellout crowds "were once common" at Bristol Motor Speedway's 160,000-seat track, but there have been four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the venue "without at sellout," according to Allen Gregory of the BRISTOL HERALD COURIER. The estimate for yesterday's Food City 500 was 102,000, which is "18,000 less than last year's official estimate." The wide-ranging reputation of BMS "was built on chaotic moments that serve as fodder for endless campfire arguments and factory floor discussions." The wider and smoother version "is perfect for drivers, who can select between multiple lanes to make passes without having to worry about getting mired in a wreck." Thanks to the "progressive banking that was introduced in 2007, drivers now work to set up textbook passes on the inside, middle and outside grooves." Gregory writes, "But let’s remember, Bristol once represented the ultimate NASCAR survival test of man and machine. There are still doses of chaos here, but it’s controlled now" (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 3/19). In North Carolina, Monte Dutton notes that five years ago, BMS' 160,000 seats "didn’t seem like enough." Dutton writes he "thought this year’s estimate was roughly last year’s crowd, and this year’s crowd was probably, oh, 80,000 or so." The fans in the area and the "pilgrims from afar grouse a lot about how management here 'ruined' the track by making it easier for NASCAR’s finest to pass one another" (Shelby STAR, 3/19). The AP's Jenna Fryer noted there are "differing opinions on why Bristol has fallen off, most notably the economic difficulties of the Tri-City area, limited hotel options and exorbitant rates for lodging within an hour-drive on race weekend." But fans have also "complained that the track isn't the same since a 2007 re-configuration." BMS races in the past "resembled demolition derbies, but the change to the track made passing easier and limited the wrecks" (AP, 3/18). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes it seems clear that "more fans are making the decision to attend one Bristol race per season -- and for most, the August race wins out" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/19).
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