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Don't look for Bristol spring race to get off track

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 23, 2019 at 6:50 PM

Following the disappointing turnout to the Food City 500, many fans have asked if Bristol could lose the spring race and take it somewhere else like Nashville.

That’s highly doubtful.

Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR would like a return to Nashville, which is one of the hottest destinations in America. A race at Nashville, however, would not likely come at the expense of Bristol.

Even if the lowest crowd estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 for the Food City 500 are accurate, the Bristol spring race is still drawing a larger crowd than what we’ve seen at other venues. In addition, Food City recently renewed its BMS sponsorship for three years when other tracks are having a tough time getting sponsorship for their races.

NASCAR is aware the fans have been clamoring for more short-track racing and moving an event from Bristol would be a highly unpopular move. As far as Nashville, the seating capacity at the Fairgrounds is currently 15,000, although seats would likely be added if a major NASCAR series returns.

Parking is a problem, especially with the current construction of a Major League Soccer stadium. Moving to Nashville Superspeedway near Murfreesboro doesn’t appear to be a viable option either because it’s currently a holding facility for extra Nissan inventory.

The Cup Series should first expand to Iowa Speedway, slightly larger than Richmond, but officially a short track at seven-eighth of a mile. If a race on the current schedule must be moved, it could come from Kansas, which only recently started hosting two events.

Another option is a doubleheader weekend for some tracks, with races set for Saturday and Sunday. That’s the plan for Pocono for the 2020 season.

Those who suggest a return to North Wilkesboro haven’t been to the speedway lately. The work that would be needed is overwhelming. It wouldn’t be a remodeling project, but a rebuilding projection.

While there are some calls for the Cup Series to return to a dirt track, the teams are against it. It also adds another layer of expense with what is required to compete on the dirt tracks.

If NASCAR decided to experiment with a dirt track race, the best option would be an exhibition at the one at Charlotte. There is already staff in place used to promoting a Cup Series race.

Of course, many want the series to visit Eldora (Ohio) Speedway, which has hosted the trucks since 2013. Eldora has a seating capacity listed at 30,000, double that of the Charlotte dirt track.

Whatever decisions NASCAR makes concerning the 2021 schedule and beyond, they will be interesting to say the least.

WEEKEND WASHOUT

Rain played havoc with the Easter weekend racing schedule, wiping out races at Kingsport Speedway, Volunteer Speedway, Clay Valley Speedway and Muddy Creek Raceway.

This week’s schedule includes Kingsport Speedway with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program named Friday Night Heat.

Volunteer Speedway has its weekly program scheduled for Saturday night. It includes features for the Fastrak Late Models, Sportsman Late Models, Mod Streets, Classics, Mini Stocks and Street Stocks.

Clay Valley Speedway is running its program originally scheduled for Easter weekend, complete with the Ultimate Easter Egg Hunt for the kids at 6 p.m. before racing starts at 7 p.m. with a $1,888-to-win feature for the Crate Late Models. The Open Wheel, Pure 4, Classics and Super Street divisions are also on tap.

The Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series is scheduled to return to action, Saturday, May 4 at I-81 Motorsports Park.

For the fans of the dragstrip, Bristol Dragway hosts the Street Car Takeover on Saturday. The DER Bracket Series takes off May 3-5.

East Tennessee Autocross will host a school and test and tune at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. The autocross course is set up in the parking lot between BMS and Bristol Dragway.

POINTS LEADER LEAVING

Kres VanDyke, the two-time Kingsport Speedway track champion, announced Monday that he will be scaling back his efforts at the three-eighth-mile concrete oval. Instead, the driver of the No. 15 Chevrolet will be racing for the championship this season at Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Virginia.

VanDyke, 38, is the current points leader at Kingsport in the featured Late Model Stock division and has won two of the season’s first three races. It’s a tough blow for Kingsport, where the Late Model car count is down from previous seasons and now is losing a major player.

The Abingdon driver and his wife, Erin, expressed thanks to their supporters at Kingsport, but felt they needed to venture out to other tracks after the two track championships and three Tennessee state championships.

Email Jeff Birchfield at jbirchfield@johnsoncitypress.com.

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