(The March race at Bristol has played to less than a sellout crowd the last two seasons - Getty)
I hope this letter finds you well.
Let me first start by congratulating you on your continued expertise in the field of public relations. Should you ever tire of the racetrack ownership and management business, I'm sure you could make a comfortable living teaching the art of PR.
Since the checkered flag flew more than six weeks ago, you have been able to keep Bristol Motor Speedway in the public eye on nearly a daily basis. The “old” Bristol vs. “new” Bristol debate has been fodder for columnists, reporters, television programs and radio shows for weeks sometimes escalating into heated exchanges and rants.
For those of us who make their living in the NASCAR media field, the topic has been as they say “good for business,” although I won't lie to you there have been times recently when an adult beverage and a Goody's need to be administered by day's end.
Your ability to milk a story for all it's worth reached new heights when you asked for fan feedback on whether or not to “fix” Bristol and attempt to return to the track to its previous 2007 configuration. Once that data was collected came the triumphant response that an overwhelming number of fans wanted the “old” Bristol back and you have vowed to go to work and make that happen.
Of course those details are still a little sketchy but your PR skills hit a high note with the announcement that an upcoming announcement was forthcoming. Brilliant!
The story got even more juice with last week's news the state of Tennessee was considering the possibility of providing financial assistance with your planned renovations. The empty seats and unsold tickets are a hit to the government's pocket book as well with lost tourism dollars and tax revenue. So it's understandable if the governor decided to invest in the potential of Bristol's renaissance as a means of recouping that income.
Once word got out of the state's possible involvement there was another surge of interest in the story with a large number of fans against tax dollars being used to help “fix” the perceived problem at your track. For the record, I have no issue with such an arrangement since the state has similar interests with other stadiums and arenas in Tennessee including the NFL's Titans.
However I also understand why some fans disagree with the tactic or look at the situation with a bit of a jaundiced eye considering your “track record” with other local municipalities. Threatening to move Charlotte Motor Speedway to another county, feuding with local law enforcement in New Hampshire and basically pointing the finger at the state for the poor interstate infrastructure as a major reason for last year's Kentucky Speedway traffic debacle won't generate too much sympathy from the average race fan.
But state financial support or not, it sounds like you've got your mind made up to somehow put Bristol back the way it was before its reconfiguration five years ago.
Trust me, our checkbooks will never be confused and you can certainly spend your money any way you choose. However I'd still like to offer you a piece of advice.
Save your hard earned cash.
Spend it to build a time machine and take us back to when gas prices weren't four dollars a gallon or more and the economy was hitting on all cylinders.
Find a way to guarantee 70-degree weather for every March race date and give Americans more leisure time in their hectic, multi-tasking lives.
Restore the thousands of lost tickets sold to fans that chose to patronize the new Cup race at nearby Kentucky Speedway and stay closer to home rather than travel to Bristol.
Persuade local hoteliers to stop raping and pillaging race fans for ridiculous sums of money and lower airfares plus outrageous rental car rates while you're at it.
Because in my opinion those are the reasons attendance is down for Bristol's spring race, not the racing.
If the racing was really as terrible as some fans maintain, then why are there nearly 50,000 more people in the stands for the August night race? Unless I'm mistaken, the on track product is identical to what fans see in the spring.
I get the big event and spectacle feel that the traditional summer race generates under the lights. But if the racing is truly as horrible as some would have you believe, I find it tough to swallow that more fans show up simply because it's a night race.
The side-by-side action the new Bristol has produced is breath taking and exactly what the sport of stock car racing should be about – competition. Crashes, accidents and wrecks are potential consequences of stock car racing but they shouldn't be the focal point. Knocking a driver out of the way as a means of passing is not racing.
Does that style create drama, emotion and yes anger among drivers? Sure. And I understand that's what some fans feel is missing from the “new” Bristol.
But there's a bit of revisionist history and selective memory at work for those who think every race at the previous Bristol layout was some kind of bare-knuckled fistfight.
For every Earnhardt vs. Labonte “rattling his cage” episode or Jeff Gordon-Rusty Wallace last lap bump and run was a 500-lap snooze fest, with droning racecars circling around the track for hours in a single file parade. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. recently pointed out there was even a caution free affair back in 1973 with Cale Yarborough trouncing the field.
There are two bottom lines here. One, it's your money and the success of SMI is more than enough evidence of the business expertise you command. It's tough to argue with the empire you've built and the company's accomplishments.
Second is the fact that without the fans there simply is no NASCAR. Appeasing the customer and giving them what they want is paramount for the sport to both survive and prosper.
But there is much more at play here than simply the style of racing changing at Bristol in recent years. I urge you and your staff to consider the variety of elements and factors that are most certainly impacting the situation before one bulldozer's engine is fired.
Perhaps something as simple as a tire that wears out a little quicker than the current rubber can be the missing ingredient to help spice up the proceedings.
One thing for certain is whatever the outcome or your decision, everyone will be talking about it.
That I can guarantee.
Take a bow for that.