Bruton Smith makes the right call at Bristol

March, 28, 2012

Bruton Smith is one of the richest and most powerful people in NASCAR. He usually tells people what he wants to do, not the other way around.

When he doesn't get his way he's been known to threaten with lawsuits, or as was the case in 2007 when he threatened to move Charlotte Motor Speedway out of Cabarrus County if officials didn't allow him to build a drag strip on his neighboring property along Bruton Smith Boulevard.

The county buckled.

Then came the March 18 Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. When only half of the 160,000 seats at what a few years ago was the toughest ticket in the sport were filled, Smith found himself in the unusual situation of being told what to do.

And he did it.

He had no choice.

Wednesday's announcement that BMS will be reconfigured before the August night race -- specifics weren't released -- was the right call. It was the only call.

The fans had Smith where he typically has everyone else -- in the pocketbook.

By staying away from what is advertised as "The World's Fastest Half Mile,'' they were telling Smith that if he wants them to keep paying high ticket prices and hotel bills, he'd better return racing to the way it was when beating and banging were the order of the day.

Never has any sport been more dictated by fans than NASCAR today. We saw it when the governing body went to green-white-checkered restarts because fans were tired of races ending under caution. We saw it when officials gave the "boys, have at it'' edict because fans were tired of the overpolicing. We saw it when officials moved the start times back to early Sunday afternoon.

And we saw it again on Wednesday as Smith declared, "The race fans have spoken.''

Smith announced the changes despite pleas from drivers to leave Bristol alone, claiming the racing in Thunder Valley is better than ever. He will make changes despite suggestions that he first look at a softer tire, which many drivers believe would have helped, before jumping to a $1 million rebuild.

He will make the changes because approximately 75 percent of the fans surveyed said that's what they wanted.

Smith became rich and powerful in large part because people went to his races and purchased cars from his 200 dealerships.

On March 18, they stripped him of some of that power.

Smith listened.

He had no choice.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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