FANS, YOU HAVE BRUTON’S ATTENTION

Yes Virginia, it’s true; money talks. You would have to have the vision of Mr. Magoo to not see all the empty seats at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday. The tribe has spoken, and the gate receipts don’t lie. It’s like that billboard said: “Do I have your attention now?”

Track owner Bruton Smith tells the Associated Press he will look over the data, compare what the track is now- versus what it used to be- and report back next week. Call this observer slightly nervous, because Smith has been known to arrive at some pretty, uh, interesting conclusions about certain things, but that smaller bank account than he’s used to on Monday morning obviously has him thinking he would like to see more backsides parked inside BMS next time.

There will be an array of voices offering opinions on what needs fixing at Bristol. You would have to be as tone deaf as William Hung to not hear the overriding theme.

I will join the small chorus who says I thought the racing was good Sunday. I thought Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth battled each other hard and battled each other clean. Uh oh- there’s a problem: THAT is NOT Bristol racing! Fans used to love this track for the same reasons they loved Martinsville. It has that same “slug it out” flavor that an Alabama-LSU football. Bristol is supposed to be a physical race. A mere five caution flags at a place where you usually see yellows in the double digits tells you all you need to know.

There’s another message NASCAR needs to get loud and clear: whether they like it or not, the fan base is blue collar- the Joe Six Pack types. If the ticket is too spendy, drop the freakin’ price! The ticket may not be all that bad compared to other sports, but look at what you have to do to get there: lodging, gas, food, etc. If you want more people in the seats, entice them, but the value has to exceed the price, and it doesn’t now. Give them the racing they want, and they will scrape up the scratch to get there.

While there are things Smith CAN fix, there are other factors beyond his control. The SMI brass can’t fix the car, and they can’t fix the Chase. Oh, and yes, Bruton, you’re right, the weather was not kind. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that a little rain and cold kept tens of thousands of fans home. Ever see an NFL regular season game in Green Bay around Christmas?

It’s like Def Leppard used to sing “Action, Not Words.” A million bucks is a small price to pay to get tens of thousand more people to the track. After all, how’s the alternative working for you?

It seems like NASCAR and those associated with the sport find themselves caught between the fans they want and the fans they have. After several years of trying every trick in the book, the “looky loos” have seen enough and moved on to a variety of other pastimes. If the blue collar man (or woman) is paying the freight, it seems wise to give them what they want.

Bruton Smith says the fans have his attention. Looks from here like the fix is a whole lot of one thing, and a little of several others. For the sake of NASCAR nation, let us hope he has a good ear for pitch.

Other articles by Jim McCoy include:

Stewart Vs. Johnson: 2012′s Title Bout?
Darian Grubb: Winning!
Is It Over Yet? Perseverance Prevails