SBD/March 29, 2012/Facilities

SMI's Bruton Smith Approves Change To Bristol Motor Speedway Track Surface

Smith estimated costs at about $1M, changes would take around 90 days
SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that he has "given the green light for making changes to the concrete track surface" at Bristol Motor Speedway, according to Allen Gregory of the BRISTOL HERALD COURIER. Smith: "We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. As a result, I have ordered the equipment and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August." Smith added that an announcement regarding the scope of the work "will be made soon" (BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, 3/29). ESPN.com's David Newton noted track surveys indicated early last week that about 75% of the fans "wanted a return to the surface" the track was composed of prior to renovations in '07. Smith has estimated costs would be approximately $1M, and the changes "would take about 90 days" (ESPN.com, 3/28). YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg wrote none of the tracks which have recently installed progressive banking have "reverted back to a consistent corner banking system." He adds that theoretically, it "seems easy to do if that's a potential fix," but that is likely "easier said than done -- and it's far from a guarantee that the 'old' Bristol will return." It is also no guarantee that the grandstands "will magically fill up because of the 'newer' Bristol in August" because the "costs of hotels in the area and fuel are things out of the speedway's control" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/28). ESPN.com's Newton wrote BMS officials "thought they had the perfect plan when they repaved and reconfigured the track's worn surface" in '07, but it has been "a public relations nightmare ever since." Adding progressive banking "has turned many fans off to the half-mile track in Tennessee, and turned many on to the half-mile track in Virginia." However, the folks at Martinsville "aren't pounding their chests over this." Even if they were to sell every ticket for this Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, "which they're getting close to doing, their capacity of 55,000 will fall well short of the 80,000-plus who were at Bristol's 160,000-person stadium" March 18. Martinsville officials also know that, had an '02 planned project to grind their entire track surface been completed, "they could have had a similar disaster." Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said it would have been "catastrophic." Campbell: "It was just by chance it turned out the way it did" (ESPN.com, 3/28). ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote late BMS President & GM Jeff Byrd "was the one who took the blame" for renovating the track in '07, and he "felt so bad about it, until the day he died" of brain cancer in '10. Byrd "knew he'd made a mistake," and was "sorrier for you the fan than for himself" (ESPN.com, 3/28).
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