Getting a ticket to Bristol Motor Speedway's annual Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series August night race was at one time the toughest get on the entire schedule. Regardless of how many seats were added, the track kept stringing together sale out after sale out.
The demand for Bristol night race tickets was fueled by what seemed to always take place anytime the series rolled into the East Tennessee track. Drivers were always in traffic on the track which produced hard racing regardless of a driver's position.
It's this tight racing that makes a driver's toughest challenge not working his way through the congested field but just keeping his temper in check for 500 laps. There is always going to be a lot of beating and banging any time the series rolls into Bristol but for some reason it seems amplified under the lights. Racing under the lights on the world's fastest half-mile amplifies the action as you see the brake pads glow going into the turns along with the sparks that flies anytime a couple of cars get together.
That action has never changed but it has not been enough in recent seasons for the track to post it as a sale out. When the country's economy began to suffer so did ticket sales at every track on the schedule and not just Bristol. The racing on the track for the night race also suffered somewhat because of the race's place on the schedule.
The race falls on the schedule late in the 26-race regular season which forces many drivers to come into Bristol with the mindset that it is more about protecting their spot in the point standings. Drivers know that to end up in Bristol's victory lane that it is going to require them to take some chances that if they don't work out could leave them at the end of the night taking a big hit in the point standings.
This will be the last night race that a driver will take the green flag with that line of thinking as NASCAR has announced that the race will be moved back on the schedule to September 19 in 2020.
That not only makes the race a part of the 10-race playoffs, it is also the cuttoff race for the opening round of the first three races.
The opening Round of Sixteen will feature races at Darlington, Richmond and Bristol and with each track presenting its own unique layout, it could easily be considered the toughest of the three rounds. Darlington's track is unique to the sport as it features a worn-out racing surface that is always slick plus its tough to set a car up as the radius at the both ends of the track is not the same.
Richmond like Bristol is classified as a short track but the two tracks do not race anything alike. Richmond layout is a .75 mile D-shaped oval that races like a speedway but is still short enough to create side by side racing with plenty of banging.
It is easy to see after back to back races at Darlington and Richmond that by the time the series rolls into Bristol next September that there will be a large portion of the 16-driver playoff field having to race hard to advance to the next Round. The days of driving trying to protect your spot in the points will no longer take place. It will be a championship race type atmosphere that should return Bristol's night race back to the lofty position that it once enjoyed.
BUBBLE WATCH: Jimmie Johnson's 34th place finish at Michigan dropped him to eighteenth in the point standings, two positions from making the playoffs. He sits 12 points behind Clint Bowyer who is now in 16th and six points behind Daniel Suarez in 17th.