Is Variable Banking The Answer?

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.

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18 Responses to “Is Variable Banking The Answer?”

  1. Andrew says:

    I think the banking helped Miami and Vegas, though neither one is an exceptionally exciting track.

    I will never understand why they put the variable banking in at Bristol, since it simply did not need a change.

    Phoenix is at least getting other changes than the variable banking; they’re extending the dogleg, which is going to change the racing even more than just the banking.

  2. RAEckart says:

    Does the two-groove racing remind anyone of the old asphalt surface & the racing it produced? (Without the asphalt tearing up?) Does anyone remember the complaints the original concrete surface got for taking away the style racing we saw on asphalt? (Concrete made it one groove.)

    We’re gonna complain cause we’re nostalgic for something we complained about? Variable banking has produced better racing at Bristol, and works better at shorter tracks.

  3. Woodrow P Dingus says:

    Agreed. Some tracks are not compatible with side-by-side racing. They never were-that’s how they evolved over the years.

    Putting variable banking in places like Bristol or Martinsville or even Dover is kinda like putting a fat lady in a pair of capri pants 3 sizes too small. The desired effect is not achieved – and the magic of what once was… has been lost.

  4. john hickson says:

    before the change to variable banking bristol was sold out for years,the toughest ticket in NASCAR,now there are seats available.somebody ignored that old saying”if it aint broke… dont fix it”. some people will say its the economy causing the empty seats,and maybe so but i know i would take the old bristol back in a minute.who would have ever thought the racing at bristol could be described as boring.Green flag stops at bristol…WTF? who ever makes the decisions at bristol,suck it up and put it back like it was

  5. BrianInFlorida says:

    I rather enjoy watching cars getting passed on the outside rather than being punted into the wall and having several cars taken out of contention in one wreck.

    The track is narrow enough and the turns come up too quickly at 120 mph to just stay in a single line and pray one does not get booted up into the wall from the car behind instead of taking the momentum and passing on the outside without losing control of the car.

    I also enjoy watching the excitement of green-flag pit strategies instead of the “conga-line” effect a yellow provides.

  6. Zieke says:

    Concerning Bristol, I have gone from a “must watch” to a “maybe if I’m not busy”. The excitement simply isn’t there anymore. Altho short-track racing is a favorite of mine, I would rather watch Martinsville and Richmond. Of course, not wanting to put up with Waltrip also has something to do with how many early season races I watch.

  7. Michael in SoCal says:

    I’m curious as to what effect the 1 degree difference in the banking is going to do in Phoenix. It will still be pretty flat, with no banking higher than 11 degrees, and a somewhat reconfigured dogleg, but I’m thinking the racing will still be pretty similar to what we’ve seen before. I think the big difference at Phoenix will be less wrecking on the frontstretch, which will be 10 feet wider.

  8. Ric says:

    We have had tickets (spring race only) at Bristol for about 10 years now. I personally think the racing has improved.

    It use to be from about lap 10 (and about 10 laps after a green flag) it was nothing but 1 single line of cars going around. If you weren’t watching and didn’t look at the scoring pylon you didn’t even know who the lead car was. The ONLY action was someone getting antsy and bumping someone out of the way. We always waited for this, to hit the restrooms, since it was the boring part.

    Now you can see cars actually pass each other. There still is plenty of banging and bumping going on. But it is more RACING. Having a green flag pit or two adds to the excitement of a race. But it has made it harder to decide when to make a restroom break.

    As for Bristol changing, being the cause of empty seats in Bristol not the economy. Then I guess you can say that it trickled down to all the other tracks having empty seats. WOW never imagined Bristol had THAT much influence. We should get the Government in on this, have them make a law to change the track back, and all the economic troubles will be gone!!! Would have been a lot faster and cheaper then putting trillions and trillions of dollars into other parts of the economy.

  9. Dennis M says:

    The racing at Bristol is definitely better, however that does not translate to good TV.

    We have been season ticket holders for over ten years and camp on the grounds. We are on the road right now headed to Bristol after wintering in Arizona and have been discussing not renewing our tickets for next year.

    Two things have killed Bristol:

    1 – Spring race date. It used to be the first weekend in April when the weather is usually great, now it is the third weekend in March (March 20 this year) and the weather can be iffy, always cold and damp (one year the Saturday race it was snowed out!)

    2 – The Chase absolutely gutted the August race. Everyone is afraid to lose points or cause a problem for a Chase contender. That has ruined the racing in August. The spring race is usually pretty good, August has been BORING the last few years – since the start of the Chase. The worst idea Brian France ever had and he has had some doozys!.

    A Bristol weekend is still a great experience, but not what it used to be. We will probably not be back after this year, and the economy has nothing to do with it.

  10. Chad says:

    You’re forgetting the two best examples of progressive banking:

    1. Irwindale
    2. IRP/ORP

    Two places not associated with boring racing.

  11. Kevin says:

    They ruined Bristol. I haven’t been back since 2007. How it works at other tracks remains to be seen, I don’t think it will be good.

  12. Marty says:

    Love the change. Puts the emphasis on racing instead of wrecking!

  13. SAB says:

    I had season tickets to Bristol for 7 years. I didn’t renew them this year. Once the ‘chase’ started, things changed with the races. Drivers in the top 10 didn’t want to take any chances. Drivers out of the top 10 didn’t want to take the chance on wrecking anyone in the top 10. When I find myself fighting to stay awake with 100 laps to go at Bristol, it’s time to stay home and (maybe) watch on TV. Progressive banking help at the longer, flatter tracks. Didn’t do much for Bristol, but that was secondary. Now Briatol is like MIS with traffic.

  14. Sue Rarick says:

    Bristol went from 2 line asphalt to 1 line concrete and now is back to 2 lines. So for us REAL OLD timers this just brings it back to the reeal good racing we remember and not the crashfest it had turned into.

    And how can anyone say the side by side racing, lap after lap that Kyle and Rooty had last year was boring.

  15. Steve says:

    Dennis his the nail on the head. Points racing/the Chase is what killed Bristol. These guys do as little as possible to get through the weekend with a decent finish. They are not going to jeopordize their Chase chances with a bad finish there, so there is no hard racing.

    I actually like the new configuration. More passing! (and no rubbing is not racing to me. That’s a stupid phrase that was taken from a horrible made for TV nascar movie called Days of Thunder.) It would be nice if they had some incentive to race for the win, because I think we would see harder racing than what is currently being produced.

  16. Mike says:

    For everyone who likes the new configuration, tell me one race in which we saw some great side-by-side, lap-after-lap racing for the lead. You can’t. Why, cuz it didn’t happen! The progressive banking works great at flatter trackers like ORP and Erwindale, but not at the fast high banks of Bristol. Added to the fact the night race is so close to the chase, Bristol has gone from a can’t miss, to record it and catch the highlights.

  17. Mike says:

    Oh yeah, prior to the progessive banking, the banking was 36 degree, not 26 like it says in the article.

  18. Mike Too says:

    From what I’ve read elsewhere on the interwebz the 36 degree banking number was incorrect (and always was).

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