Count Kevin Harvick as a fan of the old Bristol Motor Speedway.
But Harvick says Speedway Motorsports chairman Bruton Smith doesn’t need to listen to him when considering whether to reconfigure the half-mile track and change it back to the way it was before 2007.
“For me, all you have got to do is look up [in the stands],” Harvick said during a media teleconference Wednesday.
The 158,000-stadium was only about half full for Sunday’s Food City 500, prompting the speedway to consult fans on why attendance has been declining and Smith to consider changing the configuration and surface of the track, which used to be one of NASCAR’s most popular.
“What was one of our most popular races on the circuit, I feel like the old-style track brought what the fans want to see,” said Harvick, who won at Bristol in 2005. “Whether it’s what the car owners want to see or the drivers and whether you have got to run into each other or you don’t, the old style of racing was more to the appeal of the fans.”
Smith said Tuesday that more than 70 percent of fans polled after the race preferred the beating and banging and bumper-to-bumper action prior to the track being resurfaced and reconfigured in 2007. The smoother surface and progressive banking created an additional groove, allowing drivers to race side by side, requiring less contact to pass and leading to longer green-flag runs instead of dozens of wrecks and caution flags.
Prior to 2007, Bristol sold out almost all of its races and at one time had a waiting list of more than 30,000 people for its night race in August. But attendance has declined dramatically for the March race in recent years and also has been down for the popular night race.
“Sometimes when you take something that is really good and you try to make it better, sometimes it doesn’t work,” Harvick said. “Sometimes things don’t work out and you’ve got to go back to what worked before.
“What we had there before was what the fans want to see. It was an exciting race, short-track racing, beating and banging like we all grew up racing.”
The Richard Childress Racing driver has had six finishes outside the top 10 since the reconfiguration in 2007.
“I’m all old [Bristol],” Harvick said. “Any time you run 200 laps at Bristol with no cautions, it’s going to get boring fast.”
Story courtesy of Bob Pockrass and SceneDaily.com: