Speedway Motorsports, Inc CEO Bruton Smith considered building a roof over Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway could have looked very different. Unpredictable Smokey Mountain weather? How about a roof?
Track owner Bruton Smith spoke with Dave Moody on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He mentioned that he considered placing a roof over the Bristol, TN speedway.
Hidden within the hills of the Smoky Mountains. This little track has been hit with a wide range of interesting weather. Rain, snow, hot August nights, the track gets it all. A little over 10 years ago, a mini-blizzard formed shortly after the start of the NASCAR Busch Series race. The snow fell, but the race continued.
For 30 laps, NASCAR raced in the snow at Bristol Motor Speedway. Heat and wind from the cars prevented the snow from sticking to the track. Until, a caution came out. That caused them to lose the track, which netted a red flag. You can watch that Bristol snow race in the embedded video.
Track owners wanted to take the weather out of the equation. The Bristol Motor Speedway roof idea was tossed across the round-table, in serious discussion. Obviously, it never reached the construction phase. Why? Because track owner Bruton Smith couldn’t get it passed the engineering phase.
There was an issue. The roof had to be able to support the weight of the pending weather that was dumped on-top of it. In the Smokey Mountain Winter, that could mean several feet of snow. That’s a lot of weight, especially given the surface area it would take to cover a NASCAR stadium. Due to that, the Bristol Motor Speedway roof project was tossed.
Despite being placed in the middle of nowheresville, Bristol Motor Speedway has a seating capacity of 160,000 fans. Speedway Motorsports Inc and Bruton Smith no longer sell it out, for many reasons. But, there was a time this track had 50 consecutive cup race ticket sellouts and a long multi-year waiting list, just to get a seat.
It would have taken one of the largest stadium roof’s in the world to cover the NASCAR track and all 160,000 seats.
It’s the largest, and the smallest NASCAR track on the tour. Smallest, based on the physical track size of the “World’s Fastest Half Mile”. One of the largest, based on grandstand seating capacity.
Texas Motor Speedway, also owned by SMI, has a total capacity of 181,655. However, Texas only 128,655 of that is grandstand seating, the rest is “estimated” infield attendance. Other wise known as standing-room-only. Indianapolis Motor Speedway also has 235,000 permanent seats.
No NASCAR premier series race, to my knowledge, has been run at an indoor stadium. In recent years, many short track series have begun hosting races indoors. The Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis, MO hosted their first late model event inside The Dome last year. They will return to do it again in 2017.
Related: Gateway Dirt Nationals Photography – Indoor dirt late model race
The other issue with a roof at Bristol Motor Speedway would have been the sound. In 2005, they tested the sound during the race. The results were 140 decibels. A roof would only intensify that.
Author: Shane Walters
Bristol Motor Speedway
March 25, 2006