DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Last weekend at Kentucky, track owner Bruton Smith suggested that NASCAR might want to call mandatory cautions to bunch the fields.
Driver Kevin Harvick’s dismissive reaction? “Same guy ruined Bristol,” Harvick said.
Despite the efforts of Smith, the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., to change the nature of racing at Bristol in the face of declining attendance at the high-banked .533-mile short track, Harvick isn’t optimistic.
“Originally, it was great,” Harvick said of the racetrack before its reconfiguration in 2007. “It was our most popular race.”
The racing hasn’t been the same at Bristol since then, and when the March event played to grandstands that were roughly half-full, Smith vowed to restore the track to its former glory. In late April, the progressive banking in the outside groove was ground down to promote racing in closer quarters.
Drivers Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton tested Goodyear tires at the track in June and reported that the grinding had achieved the desired effect.
“You’ve definitely lost the top groove,” Stewart said after the test. “. . . There’s going to be less room to race.”
Harvick, who hasn’t seen the track since the grinding, remained dubious.
“It’s not going back to anything,” he opined. “All I’ve heard is that they’ve polished one lane.”
The proof, of course, will come Aug. 25 in Bristol’s popular night race.