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Every year at this time, I am a bit appalled at comments I see on social media to the effect that the racing at Bristol Motor Speedway isn’t any good anymore.

Or, more commonly, “ain’t no good no more.’


Racing at “the world’s fastest half (actually, .533) mile” has changed since the surface was tapered to widen the alleged racing groove. Where once the fastest lane through the turns was at the very bottom of the banking, now the preferred groove is at least a line up. This was done to make passing easier, and it is.

It’s just riskier to be mean.

Once upon a time, when the fast cars caught up with the slow cars, the slow cars had best get out of the way. The leader couldn’t afford to dilly-dally around. If a tail-ender who really wanted to stay on the lead lap defended that status too stubbornly, he was bound to take a ride on the wild side. If he was lucky, he just got rubbed or nudged up a lane.

Get outta my way, boy. I gotta go.

Bumping, rubbing, nudging and rooting (the way a hog digs a hole out of his sty) are harder now. Moving a slower car off the bottom is less hazardous than moving it out of the top. The wall is much closer, and the aggressor is more likely to hit it, too.

It’s still a bruising spectacle seldom mistaken for a game of croquet.

Maybe a race at BMS isn’t quite as rousing as once it was. It’s been a while since I thought Kentucky Fried Chicken was quite as tasty, and it was long before Reba took over the commercials. Bristol, through my experienced eyes, is still more fun to watch than most of the tracks in NASCAR.

The size of the grandstands is awe-inspiring. The sound of cars racing so fast in so small a space is earsplitting. I’d say you’d have to be there, but not nearly as many as there once were are. The six-year waiting list for tickets to the night race is long gone. Spring races used to be sold out, too. The crowds that now gather for Monster Cup races were once the crowds that came to the Busch (now Xfinity) races.

Some of it is just relative decline. Intense fans have become casual. Some are rumored to have watched the Masters last weekend.

Somehow golf is exciting, and racing isn’t. Go figure.