This year, the hot topic at Bristol Motor Speedway is not whether the new track surface will be fast or whether the new Chase Elliott will win races. Instead, it’s how high can the grandstands be built? With a capacity of 120,000, the biggest question is how much higher can they be than the current 74 feet.
Thanks to the efforts of the teams and the community behind them, the question won’t be answered for a while. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the other changes that have been made at BMS in order to create the best possible racing environment.
More Is More
When designing the new $40 million track, the most important thing to consider was its size. A large, flat track that is homologated for NASCAR was the goal, and that’s exactly what it is. The track is wider than Talladega and more than a quarter of a mile longer than Daytona, giving it the makings of a super-speedway. Its peak surface temperature is 107 degrees, making it more comfortable for drivers than any other track in the circuit.
The downside is that more room means there’s less room for everyone else. Those who have attended races at BMS in the past will tell you that the track is almost impossible to follow from far away spots on the grid. The track has always been a bit of a maze, and with the increased height, even the experts have gotten lost once or twice.
Being a corner worker at Bristol Motor Speedway is a bit like being a jockey at a racetrack. The difference is that you have access to more high-quality cars and better pay. One of the most important tools in your arsenal as a corner worker is the rearview mirror. The most recent trend in auto racing is shifting to mirrors being able to tilt and swivel, giving you a three-quarter view of what’s going on behind you. Even better, the trend is towards wireless charging, so you don’t have to plug your phone in to charge it up while you’re out camping or boating. Unfortunately, that also makes the mirrors easy to break.
When it comes to changing lanes, it is now much easier to do so than ever before. While the standard is shifting to more flexible mirrors so as to give the driver a better view of what’s happening in the blind spots, the problem is that these mirrors also allow other drivers to see what’s going on too. While you might not always want other drivers to see you changing lanes, it’s something you definitely want them to see when you’re changing lanes unexpectedly. That’s how you get into accidents.
Raised Beams And Backs Down
Another safety measure set to be implemented at BMS this year is the raised beams and backs. These are the metal girders that are positioned behind the seats in the grandstands. When a car makes contact with these girders, it’s usually a sign that the driver’s been taking a bit too much risk while driving. They can also damage your car if they roll down while you’re parked or if they come loose during an accident. These girders were originally designed to deflect bullets and other high-speed objects away from the grandstands, so you definitely want to avoid them at all costs!
New Digital Boards
The current generation of racing fans grew up with old-school wooden boards, and while there’s still a place for them in the pits and at the merchandisers, the newer, sleeker forms of digital boards are taking over the trackside. These are the boards you’ll see behind the drivers with all the information you need, including pace and temperature. They also do a great job of keeping up with the action closely, minimizing the chances of you missing a significant event due to lack of information. At least, that’s what the fans tell us.
More Than Meets The Eye
In order to keep up with the demands of a growing audience, BMS has invested heavily in upgrades beyond what is visible to the naked eye. The most significant of these is the $16 million, underground garage. Drivers will have their own personal parking spaces, making it easier for them to find a spot close to the track. While this might not sound like a big deal, especially in these days of ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles, finding a parking spot at the racetrack can be a challenge, especially in the summer when the lots are at their fullest.
One of the other significant updates is the entryway. The metal detectors originally designed for security at the airport are now being used to keep people out of the garage and grounds. This one measure alone could cut down on the number of incidents involving overzealous fans.
All In The Family
To keep things in the family, BMS is expanding its relationship with the automotive industry by creating the Bristol Grand Prix. This will be a one-day event on the schedule, a bit like the Indy 500, but with cars that are limited to production models from 1964-1968. Even more exciting is that these cars will be driven by their original owners or by members of the media in attendance. The hope is that this will lead to a greater connection between the racetrack and the fans, as well as increase sponsorship opportunities, especially in an industry where the biggest change in fortunes can come in a flash. At least, that’s the dream.
So, do you think that the 120,000-seat grandstands at BMS will be able to withstand the brutal Atlantic Ocean atmosphere that is commonly associated with racing in the East? Or will the building be washed away like Atlantis once Poseidon’s trident strikes its surface? Only time will tell, but for now, let’s enjoy the fact that NASCAR is returning to the Northeast after a 20-year absence.