Race Weekend Central

Why an ARCA East Return to Bowman Gray Makes Perfect Sense

Since the news broke that NASCAR will now run racing operations at the famed Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., many have naturally begged the question of whether the venue is suitable for a date for one of NASCAR’s national series. Based on the limitations of the venue, for both field and crowd size, a return for the ARCA Menards Series East makes the most sense. 

For those unfamiliar with Bowman Gray, it is a perfectly flat quarter-mile short track similar to what the NASCAR Cup Series has run in its Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles for the last three years. For its tendency to create conflict between drivers both on and off the track, it has been affectionately nicknamed ‘The Madhouse.’ 

While its reputation serves as a retraction from it possibly hosting a NASCAR national series event, I would argue, as someone who has been there, that it provides part of the allure.

For the excitement it creates, Bowman Gray has a rabid following all its own and sells out nearly every event of its race season. If a NASCAR touring series returned, the crowd, however small in comparison, would generate just as electric an atmosphere as any other track on the schedule. 

Most people’s mental image of BGS is created from the highlights they have seen of drivers running the wrong way around the track to chase down a competitor or brawling in the pits or some other reality television-style drama.

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While these sorts of incidents are not isolated, NASCAR’s control of the track and the ARCA East series provides reasonable assurance that no such incidents that may provide bad PR for the sport will happen in a national series race.

Aside from objecting to a Bowman Gray return based on the reputation that precedes The Madhouse, some have questioned whether the venue could logistically handle a national series event, but recent history should easily put those worries at ease.

BGS has hosted what is now the ARCA Menards Series East as recently as 2015, and the field size for the series has only shrunk since then. Although size may be an issue for any of the top 3 series, no such issue would exist for ARCA East. 

In terms of crowd size, the 17,000-pplus that would pack out BGS would actually be a very nice crowd for an ARCA East event, as the series has had undeniable attendance struggles at certain events. 

Besides the fact that the event is plausible across all levels it would need to work logically, for the purpose of returning the sport to its roots, this event would be perfect. As one of the oldest continually operating short tracks in the country, Bowman Gray Stadium has hosted races since 1949, including dates for the Cup Series from 1958 through 1971.

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Stories persist of legends like Lee Petty, Rex White, the Wood Brothers, and countless others battling it out around the tight confines of Bowman Gray, and a return to the historic quarter-mile could serve as a vital connection to its past that NASCAR needs. 

Through its rich history and its potential to draw a big crowd and put on an entertaining race, BGS offers great value for NASCAR and presents a great case to once again host a national series race. The way I see it, the ARCA Menards Series East is the perfect suiter as both the track and the series offer what the other needs. 

For decades, BGS served as a proving ground for NASCAR’s best, and I believe it should once again play host to a NASCAR national series event, as the track surely has a lot to offer.

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