BRISTOL — Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith is serious about putting a roof over Bristol Motor Speedway.
While his father, Bruton Smith, floated the idea four years ago, Marcus made it clear during recent visits to the Dale Jr. Download and the Sirius NASCAR radio show “Dialed-In with Claire B. Lang,” this was no April Fool’s joke. There are ongoing discussions on how to achieve this over the next few years.
While the idea sounds far-fetched to some, it’s an engineering feat that certainly seems possible. There are obvious challenges, but this is the same company that turned BMS into the world’s largest football stadium and brought in 23,000 tons of dirt to host the first NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt in 50 years.
Perhaps the most incredible engineering feat is Colossus, the largest center-hung television in the world.
A roof over Bristol has obvious benefits, starting with a guarantee the race would be run at a specific time, barring severe flooding like we saw on March 28 for the Food City Dirt Race.
Even with a roof, an event would be postponed in that situation. It was simply too dangerous with the grounds flooded around the race track. But under normal rain conditions, it would be great for the fans in attendance, the television partners and others involved to have the race at the scheduled time.
There are concerns about air quality, noise, etc., which would be addressed.
Racing indoors is nothing new. The Tulsa (Oklahoma) Expo Center annually hosts the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. It’s the largest midget car event on the calendar year with over 300 entries. Other places like Terre Haute, Indiana, have indoor racing throughout the winter. Of course, those places don’t have 100,000-plus fans in attendance.
Another suggestion is a tarp system to make track drying faster.
It might be too much of a task at Daytona, Talladega or Pocono, all tracks over 2 miles in length, but it seems plausible at the half-mile tracks of Bristol and Martinsville. It also looks like something that would be handy for Bristol Dragway.
Smith and the team including Steve Swift and BMS Executive Vice President Jerry Caldwell deserve a lot of credit for thinking outside the box. Over the past months, there have been far less comments about a dying sport to excitement about something new.
While the addition of more road courses seem to be good overall, there’s a push to race on a street course. Personally, I’d rather see more short tracks added to the schedule as SMI keeps working with the Nashville government to open the Fairgrounds Speedway. There are plans to convert California Speedway to a half-mile track and even rumblings of a possible dirt race at North Wilkesboro.
It’s also exciting to see Nashville Superspeedway on the Cup Series schedule. It’s a unique 1.3-mile concrete track that has hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series and IndyCar in the past.
The schedule changes and others like the choose rule have added excitement. While many talk about the good old days, the competitive racing of the present and innovative ideas for the future make it a great time to be a NASCAR fan.
LATE MODELS COMING
The World of Outlaws Late Models Bristol Bash is Thursday through Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Jonathan Davenport, who recently captured the $50,000-to-win Super Late Model main event at the recent Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals, is among the headliners for this weekend’s races.
Davenport also won last Saturday at Tazewell Speedway with NASCAR Cup star Kyle Larson finishing runner-up to him again. When word got out that Larson was racing at Tazewell, it created a massive traffic jam from Highway 25-E up the 2.5-mile windy road to the 1/3-mile dirt track.
For Bristol, the entry list also includes Chris Ferguson, who won the Friday feature at the Bristol Dirt Nationals, and Hawkins County legend Scott Bloomquist, who won on the Bristol dirt back in 2001.
Kyle Strickler, who won a Modified race at the Bristol Dirt Nationals, is the Outlaws points leader. Defending World of Outlaws champion Brandon Sheppard and Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model champion Jimmy Owens from Newport are among the other major stars.
Strickler will pull double duty at Bristol, also racing in the DIRTCar UMP Modified races.
Thursday is a practice day with a 40-lap, $10,000-to-win feature headlining Friday’s action. Saturday features another 40-lapper, but this time, a $25,000-to-win feature.
HOT SUMMER NIGHTS
The Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series is scheduled to begin Saturday at Muddy Creek Raceway.
It is a 17-race series that runs until October 30. Another local venue is I-81 Motorsports Park, which will host rounds two and three of the series. Cory Cooper from Pennington Gap is the defending Pro champion of the Hot Summer Nights Series. Kingsport rider Logan McConnell won two Pro races in 2020 and Adam Britt of Johnson City won the season-ending race.
Jonathan Goodpasture was a big winner at the first ever Bunny Bash at the Kingsport Miniway.
He won both the Senior Champ and Pro Champ races. Other winners at the go-kart track outside of Kingsport Speedway included: Bobby Bohanon Jr. (375 Predator), Tyler Prosperi (375 Clone), Karston Tuell (Jr. Sportsman) and Daniel Trent (RWYB).
LONESOME PINE RACEWAY
Josh Gobble won the featured Limited Late Model race at Lonesome Pine Raceway last Saturday after first-place finisher Keith Helton was disqualified for a carburetor violation. Lance Gatlin finished second.
John Ketron romped to a Pure 4 victory and Kevin Canter was the victor in Mod 4. Other winners were Elby Harrison in Mod Street and Mike Mays in Pure Street. Racing is scheduled to return April 17 to the 3/8-mile asphalt track in Coeburn.