Since the track’s reconfiguration a few years ago, it seems that every time we get close to Bristol, the comments about how the track and the racing just aren’t the same come back. When the track’s concrete was redone in 2007, the banking in the corners went from a straight 26 degrees to 24-30 degrees. And in making the change, the racing at Bristol was forever altered. The question is, when tracks are getting resurfaced or reconfigured, is variable banking the answer to all that ails them?
The biggest complaint about the new Bristol is that the action just isn’t the same as it was. Before the new concrete, Bristol was known for it’s close racing and the need for “bump-and-run” passes. There was one fast way around the half mile track, and that was right on the bottom. And often, the only way to pass a guy was to move him. That always led to a lot of wrecks and a lot of angry drivers. The variable banking all but eliminated this type of racing, and to some, killed Bristol.
The most recent example of a track getting variably banked corners is Phoenix International Raceway. As part of the track’s reconfiguration that includes new pavement, and a change in the backstretch dogleg, variable (or progressive) banking will be added in turns 1-2 and turn 4. We wrote back in November about our thoughts on the changes, but I will reiterate that we aren’t fans of them. I’m all for new pavement, but as to the other changes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Besides Phoenix and Bristol, the other two tracks on the NASCAR schedule that employ this style of banking are Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. While you can probably make the argument that both of these tracks were helped by the reconfigurations, neither are known for particularly close racing.
As the Cup and Nationwide cars get ready to take to the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” this weekend, I’m curious what your thoughts are on variable banking. Personally, I think in certain situations it can be good, but it should not be something every track adopts. It can create more side by side racing, but not every track needs 43 cars running two by two every lap. Bristol is a perfect example.