Didn’t we just go through a race day just recently…seeing a green flag, a couple cautions, and then a celebration of victory with a burnout, and no fans in attendance? Sure seems like it, and the turnaround to head to the next track is a lot quicker with the revised schedule.
Mother Nature certainly made that harder, although it was an advantage to be at the home base before heading to the next venue.
At the same time, we’re heading to a track where we know that it is going to be intense, and certainly is an opportunity to see one get some revenge on something that happened earlier in the year, or even a season ago. The first short track of the season got delayed, and heading to a venue that is called the “Coliseum” certainly has a different feeling when the bleachers are bare, but disinfected.
Bristol is a place that, honestly, has seen a drop in fans even before this pandemic. We actually saw grandstands empty last year because the track didn’t sell seats for that area. Back in the day, this track sold out the grandstands for almost two decades. Now, even Thunder Valley is facing a reality that fans aren’t coming.
What does make this rather interesting is that in the end, not having fans will also mean the demand for tickets once fans are allowed back to the stands, even at a limited capacity, will be huge. Even the drivers say that it’s weird to be at the track, especially once the checkered flag waves and one celebrates in victory, but does so to dead silence. It is abnormal to race to a completely empty grandstand. In doing this, it gave drivers perspective on how important the people outside the track are. Sure there’s probably some nuisance fans out there that shouldn’t be at the track. Take that drunken fan who tried to get an autograph…under the red flag.
Or how about the fan on pit road that decided to confront Denny Hamlin…whether those decisions are strictly alcohol fueled is not the issue, but those fans are also few and far between.
For the most part, the fans of this sport are the lifeblood, and not seeing the crowd roar for their driver in victory, or maybe do the same thing that Chase Elliott did to Kyle Busch at Darlington, is just eerie.
Now we head to Bristol where literally it is the one place that confrontations will not only take place, but are revered by the faithful fans. Just try to imagine Ward Burton’s shield toss and no one roaring, even if it was at the most popular driver. Try to envision Tony Stewart hurling his helmet and doing so in silence. Or, to bring back probably the ultimate bump and run, try to picture Dale Earnhardt turning Terry Labonte in turn 2, and going to victory lane amid many boos while he tried to say, “I didn’t mean to wreck him, just rattle his cage a bit.”
No one can…this is Bristol, baby.
However, this is at least going to be the normal for another month. So in this instance, we must embrace the normal feeling of intense action on a small track, with no one to celebrate with. Although I’m sure through the celebration there will be some arguments and maybe some fights.
Social distancing at a short track…yeah right. Let’s see how long that will last.