Race Weekend Central

5 Points To Ponder: See Something? Don’t Say Something

1. Staying quiet seems like the new boasting

As is often the case when the NASCAR Cup Series visits a short track, and perhaps even more so when said short track is covered with generous amounts of dirt, there were several drivers who could have been excused for being big mad when they left the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track.

Kyle Larson has the fastest car early at Bristol, and even though his No. 5 Chevrolet looked slower as the night went on, he still figured to have a shot at a top-10 finish.

But he never found out, as Larson ended up tangling with Ryan Preece and his race ended early.

Larson insinuated that Preece retaliated for contact earlier in the event. Yet instead of defiantly bragging about it, Preece was a little more coy in his answer, saying he was “just not gonna keep lifting” when the time came.

Ryan Blaney was another driver who had a legitimate gripe. After fighting all race long to be in position to try for the win, he restarted on the front row with less than 10 laps to go. Then Chase Briscoe hit him, and suffice it to say, he did not finish in the top 20.

Briscoe was contrite after the race, calling it a “dumb move” on his part. He even said he expected payback, but Blaney didn’t find a microphone or camera crew to vow vengeance.

This could all just be coincidence. Or it could be a result of Denny Hamlin getting fined and having points deducted for going on his podcast and declaring to the world that, yes, he put Ross Chastain into the wall on purpose at Phoenix.

Before that penalty — which was upheld on appeal, unlike some others of late, cough, cough, Hendrick Motorsports, cough — telling everyone you either did or were going to spin someone on purpose was the cool thing to do.

Now? Not so much, it appears. That’s kind of a shame, because wherever you fall on the “rubbin’, son, is racin'” scale, hearing drivers talk about it is entertaining without being dangerous. If NASCAR wanted to legislate that out of the sport for the rest of the season, it looks like mission accomplished for now.

See also
Thinkin' Out Loud: NASCAR Needs a Dirt Race, But Maybe Not at Bristol

2. How do you solve a problem like Bristol?

Yes, we sometimes paraphrase The Sound of Music here at Frontstretch. We’re cultured like that.

It’s been a long time since NASCAR tracks provided attendance figures, so everyone is left to rely on the eye test for gauging race day crowds. The eye says the Bristol dirt race was far from sold out, and while BMS has been experiencing declining crowds for some time, this was one of the saddest-looking events for a venue that used to have a wait list for its two races.

If you recall the scientific method from your high school science classes, you’ll probably agree that the issue with the Bristol spring race is that too many variables have changed too quickly to know which one to fix. Has the novelty of covering the track with dirt simply worn off after a few years? Or is the Easter night experiment one that shouldn’t be tried again?

NASCAR should either not race Easter night at Bristol in 2024 or move the dirt race elsewhere — but not both. Otherwise we may never know why The Last Great Colosseum was so empty last holiday weekend.

3. A Cup dirt race is in a constant state of existential crisis

Several Cup drivers mentioned after Bristol’s dirt race that this was the most fun of the three editions of the race so far. Anecdotally, fans (watching on TV, one presumes, not actually at Bristol) agree, with Jeff Gluck’s “Was it a good race?” poll sitting at more than 66% good with more than 23,000 votes cast.

Larson disagrees, and adamantly at that. He not only told Frontstretch prior to the race that he thought Bristol should go back to two races on concrete, when he was asked where he’d like the Cup Series to go to for a dirt race, he answered succinctly: “None.”

That’s not just any driver, either, but a generational talent on dirt. He’s not likely to change his mind no matter how Bristol iterates to make its dirt race better.

NASCAR shouldn’t let Larson dictate what it’s doing, or any driver for that matter. But Larson’s comments illustrate the fact that a Cup dirt race is going to face a question of whether it should be happening every year. It’s a philosophical debate that will never end.

Right now, NASCAR obviously believes the upside outweighs the exhausting annual second-guessing. But it might not feel that way forever.

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After Christopher Bell Holds Serve for Bristol Dirt Win

4. The downside of the Chicago Street Race? Traffic

The next race that may spark the same kind of hand-wringing as the Bristol dirt race won’t take place until July 2, but officials started preparing citizens of the Windy City for the ripple effects of the race on the Chicago street course April 10.

Specifically, getting the Grant Park course set up will require lane closures on some downtown streets as early as June 25, with whole roads being closed starting on June 28. CBS News Chicago said it will take “weeks” to break the street course down after the event, and claimed “won’t see roads and sidewalks fully open again until July 15.”

If the dirt race question is “Should we be doing this?,” the street race equivalent is “Is this all worth it?” For the city of Chicago, there’s the promise of tourism money flowing in, provided race fans are coming from far enough away, as well as the bragging rights that come with doing something different first.

Whether the non-race fans affected by how the course snarls already heavy Chicago traffic during the heart of the summer feel that benefits them is going to be interesting to see.

5. Prayers up for Cale Yarborough

It’s always sad when a well-known member of the NASCAR community is in poor health, but it hits home even more when it’s one of the greatest drivers of all time.

Over the weekend, a widely circulated tweet from someone within the sport claimed Cale Yarborough was “not doing well” and that his family had asked for no phone calls or visits.

The 84-year-old Yarborough is a NASCAR Hall of Famer, and the first driver ever to win three consecutive championships (1976 through 1978) in the Cup Series. He won the Daytona 500 four times and earned a number of other honors and accolades over a stock car racing career that spanned 31 years.

We’d like to add our best wishes to all of those hoping that Yarborough pulls through whatever health challenges he’s currently facing.

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kb

I don’t see a fan influx to the city that crime is out of control. Expense of everything these days is a real concern. They an got incompetent person out of the mayoral office regarding citizen safety and who championed criminal rights and ignored the carnage and death toll, imo. It seems they just voted a more radical person office. Hard to believe. Who would go to that city? I agree with the “first” bragging rights, but I feel this will a be disaster regarding the/any race. The entertainment/vibe will be touted as great, that had zero to do with the sport, and the NASCAR sycophant media will claim the venue a SUCCESS!

Guess work on my part, of course. We shall see.

Last edited 1 year ago by kb
Steven

Even if Nascar paid my expenses I wouldn’t go to Chicago. For ANY reason. I wouldn’t feel safe there.

Bill B

I doubt NASCAR fans are going to flock to Chicago to watch a street race. Not the best spectator experience if you want to actually see a race (here they come…. there they go… 3 minutes later,,,, repeat). It reeks of gimmickry that only NASCAR can perpetuate. With that said, it is a must watch event for TV viewing, once. After that the novelty will have worn off, in fact the novelty may wear off before the halfway point of the race.

NASCAR should start penalizing drivers for blatant retaliation with or without the driver admitting it. There are times and places to exact revenge where it isn’t obvious and no one can prove anything. There was no doubt in my mind that Preece purposely wrecked Larson. At the very least you need to wait for the next event to make it look like an accident. Or we can just let it devolve into a demolition derby from week to week.

Tom B

Yes, NASCAR does need to penalize drivers for blatant retaliation, period. It is a deadly assault. If a driver can die while qualifying (last week), it is more evident while racing.

Kurt Smith

I think NASCAR should hold back and let Larson end Preece’s day when he’s running well, and then drop the hammer and say “okay, this ends now”. Only problem with that is that you have to wait for Preece to run well, which is pretty much never.

Dawg

As for the Chicago street race, you better not miss it. Because it’s going to be a one & done.

I used to live in the Chicago area, & I know how intense traffic is under normal conditions.

This deal was kind of sneaked in on the quiet, but you can bet it’s not going to stay that way.

Don’t forget that the voters of Chi town threw out a Mayor due to a snow storm, & the city’s response to it.

They’ve already changed Mayors, but the uproar over the snowstorm, will be minor compared to what’s coming.

That & the fact that street races usually pale in comparison to races on a purpose built track.

The exception being Le Mans, but this ain’t gonna’ be no Le Mans, it’ll be more like Monaco, which is always a follow the leader parade.

Kurt Smith

How do you fix Bristol? The problem isn’t Bristol, it’s how NASCAR has treated the fans who used to flock to Bristol in ginormous numbers.

In the last 20 years, NASCAR has changed absolutely everything about a sport that was exploding in popularity. They went to an idiotic method of determining a champion, foisted an ugly and boxy spec racecar on the teams, moved races out of historic and exciting venues for indistinguishable and boring ones, took a big dump on Kentucky fans when their new speedway produced an inexcusably miserable experience for thousands of fans in its very first event (remember Bruton saying “we don’t want to” when asked if the speedway would refund the cost of tickets to people who missed the event because of the insane traffic?), and made rule change after rule change in the name of “more excitement”…i.e. more wrecks.

They have placed so much emphasis on winning and so little on consistency that there’s no reason for drivers to avoid risking causing major pileups, and so they cause major pileups at the end of every event…and then whine about “lack of respect”.

They directed the marketing department to fully embrace a less than even mediocre female driver because she looked hot in a swimsuit, while completely ignoring the marketing opportunity that a seven time champion presented to them.

They went from being a unique sport that offered something different to trying to be like all of the other sports with the levels of hype, gimmickry and entertainment, to the point where no one can even tell today who is a good driver anymore.

That’s why the grandstands are empty at Bristol, not because of Bristol.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kurt Smith
Carl D.

I wouldn’t go to a fake dirt race at BMS if it was free. I wouldn’t go to a street race in Chicago if they paid me and if Kate Upton promised to go with me. I get that NASCAR is looking for new ways to spark interest in the sport, but in my opinion, these gimmicks are misguided (especially the street race in Chicago… is this a leftover Brian France idea? It has his stench all over it.)

By contrast, having the All-Star race at North Wilkesboro is a brilliant idea. Tickets have been sold out for weeks. Embracing the history of the sport, and not gimmicks, is the way to keep the sport healthy.

wildcats2016

Very sad to hear the news about Cale’s poor health. A legend for sure.

I agree with you re the “eye” test for attendance. The Bristol races, especially the spring race, have been poorly attended for a while. NASCAR and BZF ruined what was a “must see” event. My brother and I were lucky enough to go to the races in August – before the COT was foisted on everyone and before the track was reconfigured. It was awesome. We sat thru a 3 hr rain delay for the Busch race. We both had rain gear so I fell asleep in my seat until the jet dryers fired up. I’m so glad we went, it’s a wonderful memory to have.

Ugh I forgot about the street race. I’m sure the people living in the area will not be pleased.

Dan

So if Blaney gets the opportunity to dump Briscoe at short track Martinsville and does will NASCAR feel it’s retaliation and ignore it knowing what happened at Bristol? Kind of makes one wonder. Briscoe move wasn’t a dumb move, it was a boneheaded move.

Kicks

Actually, the closures for Grant Park will start on June 2 and everything is supposed to be cleaned up by July 15 according to the published reports. The closures start with sidewalks and parking spaces and grow from there.It will be difficult to get from the suburbs to any of the other lakefront attractions such as Navy Pier or the Museum Campus. And the course itself is a bunch of 90 degree street corners with construction barrier walls that won’t produce good side by side racing.I live in the burbs and I won’t waste the money they are charging to attend. They should just go back to running at Chicagoland Speedway.

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