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Later date might help Bristol spring race

April 1st, 2014 7:29 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Later date might help Bristol spring race

It’s a huge weekend for local racing with the season-opener at Kingsport Speedway rescheduled for Friday night, the ATV Motocross National Championship Series at Muddy Creek Raceway slated for Saturday and the DER Bracket Series all weekend at Bristol Dragway.

With zero percent chance of rain in the forecast for Sunday, it’s also a weekend when many local fans will be asking the question, “What if?”

What if the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway had been scheduled for this weekend? The Bristol spring race has been held as early as March 14 and as late as April 14 over the past 25 years. Many feel the unpredictably of the March weather in recent years is an overwhelming factor in declining crowd attendance.

There is no denying other factors, including many fans’ displeasure of a track reconfiguration seven years ago. Still, the August race has been a near sell-out each of the last two years while the spring race attendance has plummeted with the early date.

Many have suggested a change in the Sprint Cup Series schedule, although in a meeting with local media members last month NASCAR President Mike Helton said that changing race dates wasn’t that simple.

It hasn’t stopped BMS officials from negotiating for a later date, possibly as late as May. 

It appears like a simple solution would be a switch of dates with Texas Motor Speedway, another Speedway Motorsports track where the Duck Commander 500 is being held this weekend.

However, a swap is something which both tracks would have to agree upon and most importantly a move approved by SMI chairman Bruton Smith.

Looking back at the March 14-16 weather, while it was miserable in the Tri-Cities with the cold and rain, it was less than ideal in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

The high near Texas Motor Speedway was 57 degrees on Sunday, March 16, although the normal for that date is 69 degrees. That’s 10 degrees warmer than the Tri-Cities’ normal for the same day.

By comparison, the normal for the Tri-Cities is 65 degrees for this weekend. It’s easy to envision the campgrounds much fuller with the balmy weather of this week than last month when the low was 21 degrees on March 14.

Understand though, there is no guarantee of good weather any time in the spring. 

It was April 1, 1993 when NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki and three others were killed off Island Road after ice formed on the wings of their plane. The next day at the race track was still cold and miserable with it raining and spitting snow.

However, the odds of better weather improve with a later date. 

In the meantime, BMS officials continue to work on a later date. It won’t be known how successful their efforts are until later in the year when the 2015 schedule is released.

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Kingsport Speedway looks to get its season started Friday night after races originally set for last Saturday were postponed due to rain.

There is a six-division NASCAR All-American Series program scheduled at the .375-mile concrete short track. The feature is a 60-lap race for the Late Model Stock division with support races to include :Street Stock (30 laps), Pure 4 (25 laps), Mod 4 (20 laps), Rookie Pure 4 (15 laps) and Legends (10 laps).

Knoxville driver Chad Finchum will try to defend his Kingsport Speedway and Tennessee state championships this season, while Johnson City driver Zeke Shell looks to improve one spot after being track runner-up each of the last two seasons.

Pit gates open at noon on Friday with grandstands opening at 5:30 p.m. Practice begins at 6 p.m. followed by qualifying at 7 p.m. and racing to start around 7:45 p.m.

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Muddy Creek Raceway hosts the second round of the Mountain Dew ATV Motocross National Championship Series this Saturday.

There are 39 classes to be contended, headlined by the AMA Pro Championship Series.

Two-time defending series champion Chad Wienen looks to continue his winning ways. The Illinois rider powered his Yamaha to victory lane in the first race of the season in Georgia.

A pair of Pennsylvania riders John Natalie and Joel Hetrick look to be his top challengers after finishing second and third, respectively, in the opener. 

Pro action begins at 11 a.m. with practice and qualifying. Opening ceremonies are set for 2:40 p.m. with the opening motos scheduled for 3 p.m.

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Bristol Dragway has the Roadrunner Markets Street Fights scheduled for Thursday with a test-and-tune for the DER Bracket Series on Friday.

Gates open at 5 p.m. on Thursday with racing starting at 6 p.m. The test-and-tune starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

Bracket racing starts with qualifying at 11 a.m. on Saturday and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by eliminations on both days.

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