Bowman Gray Stadium Circus Isn’t The Answer To Short Track Racing Woes

Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Photo: Grant Halverson/NASCAR)

Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Photo: Grant Halverson/NASCAR)

It’s become a social media phenomena that happens seemingly each time the Bowman Gray Stadium ringmaster announces that the clowns will be the spotlight act.

Yes, each time another goofy incident of one driver chasing down another driver, or purposely wrecking a competitor, or competitors trading fists or getting arrested on track, the videos populate the timelines of those around short track racing like a plague.

Nothing wrong with that. Look at the schedule guide on your TV and you’ll see America’s Funniest Home Videos, Tosh.0, Ridiculousness, World’s Dumbest … . All televisions shows dedicated to spreading the hilarity of people being idiots on video.

Though invariably with the Bowman Gray Stadium footage comes the herd of folks around short track racing exclaiming that short track racing would be better off if more facilities operated like Bowman Gray Stadium.

Sunday morning Facebook timelines in the thousands were overrun by video of Junior Miller going after Burt Myers with his car in the infield following a Modified race at Bowman Gray Saturday night. The accompanying video that made the storyline even more ridiculous was of a female fan punching Myers while in victory lane after the race.

In 2010 the History Channel series “Madhouse” featured a season in the life of racers at Bowman Gray Stadium, which is in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The continued theme of the show was celebrating rivalries that regularly turn ugly in many ways. It painted the portrait to America of short track racing as a thug sport where fists fly after every event, racecars are regularly used as weapons and promoters and race track owners stand by and laugh at all of it. Myers and his racing family, along with Miller, were the showcase players in the series.

Yes, Bowman Gray Stadium is a unique short track facility that packs fans in regularly, and surely those attendance numbers are the envey of short track operators across the country. The question is, what cost do you pay when encouraging and promoting a circus atmosphere takes precedence over well run short track events?

Turn short track racing into an uncontrolled, mayhem-filled three-ring circus and that will help short track racing? Really?

Bowman Gray Stadium isn’t packed because people like racing, it’s packed for the same reason that if you had gladiators fighting to the death with lions today, you’d sell that out too. People love to sit back and watch other people do really dumb things. But is that really racing? No. Short track operators could stage fights between competitors every week across the country, but would that really make short track racing better?

Saying that the idiocy that takes places regularly at Bowman Gray Stadium would help other short tracks become successful is like saying you could get more viewers for tennis if you took away the rackets and instead used an oblong brown leather ball, changed the court to make it 100 yards long, put in lines every 10 yards and had 11 players on each side.

Oh wait, no you can’t turn tennis into football and then say it’s the recipe that made it more successful. Saying short track facilities across the country need to turn their racing cards into some sort of pro wrestling/enduro hybrid monster sport is basically just changing the sport entirely.

Yes, story-lines and drama create fans. But, where does it cross the line to not even being about the racing any longer? If people are coming to your track mainly because your drivers consistently use their cars as weapons to go after other drives or your drivers are regularly getting hauled off in handcuffs, then are you even selling “racing” at that point?

Follow RaceDayCT On FacebookFollow RaceDayCT On Twitter

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments

  1. modfan says:

    amen to that, spot on shawn. A weekly mod show at Waterford or Stafford is worlds away from Bowman Gray. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep short track racing strong.

  2. Goldy says:

    Let’s be clear, what Burt did is no different than what wonder boy Barrett did at Thompson.. move the leader out of the way to win… but wait, I forgot.. we need a “villian”, so it’s cool..

  3. Curtis Teague says:

    It is clear that your comments are based on never having attended a race at the stadium. Keep your views alive as your weekly race tracks continue to die across the country. Cup racing has been ruined by Nascar with the clean corporate crowd. Did you see the pathetic attendance at Dover today. Yes, Bowman Gray may sometimes seem over the top, but they do have dedicated fans who range from doctors, attorneys, and other professionals to people scraping the 10 dollars together required for admission each week.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the Whelen Tour and the Southern Tour. Just don’t be so judgmental.

  4. John Keane says:

    Well said that place sucks thats not racing sorry but I am a RACEFAN not a wwe or wwf fan.

  5. Andy Boright says:

    Track promoters sure as hell aren’t selling racing when they run 9 divisions (made up of mostly 10 and 12 car fields) like I witness last night at Monadnock.

    Fact is you go back to the 50s and 60s when racing was more popular and growing (unlike what it is doing today), it was more like a circus were you never knew what you would see from week to week.

    True racing didn’t come from spec cars, low car counts, and few lead changes where everyone held hands and sung kumbaya.

    B/G isn’t the magic pill for short tracks, but there certainly are a lot of elements tracks should be taking from that place an applying to their own lifeless programs.

  6. C.J. says:

    I agree with your article completely however it seems to go against your views on the last mrs race at Thompson

  7. Jimmy says:

    Well… Its like this… The late great Jack Arute Sr. once told me that if two monkeys screwing a football in the middle of the infield packed the stands. There would be two monkeys screwing a football at SMS. I get what your saying Shawn but at BG thats the way it is and won’t ever change. After all Dennis Hooth was the Race Director and General Manager of BG before he move up the ladder in NASCAR and it was that way when he was there. I liken it to the late great Harvey Tatersall bailing out certain driver at Waterford after he junked his car banging it into two wreckers and then giving him money to get his car ready for the following week. He told said driver were gonna pack the place to the rafters. Everybody likes going to a fight and having a race break out… Just saying.

  8. Crazy in NY says:

    I find myself in 100% agreement with you Shawn.No matter how many tickets you sell, a freak show is a freak show.

  9. mark says:

    Well done.

  10. This article is missing the big picture. Sure, Bowman Gray has a lot of drama on the track, but the Stadium also has a lot for the fans such as reasonable gate fees, decent food and plenty of give aways. There are also infield shows, jet fly-byes, demolition derbies, and the list goes on. The kids get to see their friends in a safe and friendly atmosphere and there is plenty of crowd control. Top that with a great announcer and you have a top notch show. It’s true the racing can get a little dirty, but most of the 16,000 people that come to watch have watched generations of drivers beating and banging their way to the front. This is why Bowman Gray will continue to be a successful short track. If you ask me, other tracks could learn a lot about fan appreciation by following BG’s recipe.

  11. Ricky freedell says:

    Bowman gray has what NASCAR lost that’s why banners cover stands in bowman gray seat full !

  12. Chandler says:

    Well it’s obvious you’ve got the wrong idea about Bowman Gray Stadium. This isn’t the WWE, it’s not scripted. Tempers flair just like Bristol or Martinsville or Richmond or any number of tracks across the country. This flat track around a football field is a very tough track to tame. At the Madhouse you’ll see some of the most skillful racing you’ll see anywhere. Sure, you’ll also see some of biggest idiots in the world. I enjoy all kinds of motorsports and I love Bowman Gray. You’ll see the best modified drivers in the South and some of the best in the US. This is an historical track and history is made everytime a race is started. A bunch of northern tour drivers have made their way down to take a crack at the famed quarter mile. As a matter of fact the very race that you’re bad mouthing had Justin Bonsignore make an appearance.

  13. Chris W - @chris8video says:

    I don’t know when or if you’ve been to BGS but the racing is great on the track where it sometimes takes a little contact to make a pass. The car counts are huge. The fans crowd the place week in and week out.

    The silliness that is shown in the video you referenced isn’t every single week. But when it does happens it goes viral quickly.

    It is the by-product of the close quarters racing on the flat quarter mile that forces drivers to make certain decisions if they want to make a pass for the win.

    Sprint Cup only wishes that kind of racing regularly. The fighting and acting a fool…while mostly uncalled for…it’s certainly fun to watch.

  14. frank says:

    Your senseless blog is… senseless. Quit wasting your time venting about little ol’ bowman gray. Its racing and we enjoy it.

  15. Brandon says:

    Just an opinion. It is racing and drivers showing displeasure when they lead until last lap only to get spun. These arent cookie cutter clones of big time nascar, just people not gonna take mess from other people. As was yours, this is just an opinion.

  16. JChim says:

    If the only way to make the local tracks big money is to make it a WWE wrestling show, then let it end. Look at the Sids View video of Lutz at Waterford and Szegedy at Thompson. The whole mentality of taking out a driver robs the fans of seeing the race they paid for. What a great and exciting race between Rocco and Lutz. Compare it to Barrett taking Szegedy out on the last lap. How great would that finish at Thompson been if they had actually raced to the flag. Sometimes you just can’t make a pass even when faster. Somehow in oval track racing some people think that it then gives you the green light to win by destruction and be the last guy standing. I believe the answer to all this is to have events that involve more people from the community. The track needs to be part of the community. You need to get to people who do not currently go to a race. It makes no sense to market to racers, we all know where the tracks are. Then get those people to an event. But imagine a 9 year old asks his parents to bring him/her to a race for the first time and there a winner is punched in the face. Not exactly family friendly.

  17. Jason Burns says:

    If you don’t sell tickets, you don’t have a show. There has to be a happy medium, and I think Bowman-Gray has it. They sell the joint out (or at least get close to it) eery weekend. You can dislike it all you want, but the reason they put fans in the stands is because the audience is entertained and they get value for their money.

  18. Jim says:

    When you characterize the temper eruptions as “use a race car as a weapon” you inject ideology into the conversation and you lose all credibility. Letting the confrontations play out publicly is not a failure on anyone’s part. These claims you make that indicate you believe this are ridiculous. Your idealistic fantasies of what makes a motor race a motor race are not founded in reality. These drivers racing at this level do in fact have erupting emotions as a result of disappointment and will demonstrate them inappropriately. To have law officers tackle them to the ground and haul them off to jail each time is counterproductive to all promoter’s goals. You seemingly advocate just this and I have to question whether you are a race fan first or a totalitarian advocate first. Humpy Wheeler posted today a viewpoint opposite of yours that highlights two contrasting ideologies. His has more validity.

  19. Chris Fleming says:

    Well, you can call me a idiot or a circus performer or anything you want, does not bother me. My brother left Bowman Gray and qualified 9th at Daytona in a Busch car, my son left Bowman Gray and finished 3rd at the ONOH Battle at the Beach. We race every where and most of the time up front or close. The battle Kyle Ebersol and myself left this message from Matthew Dillner” Ok… I didnt see the wreck that took ya out (the second deal). I wont weigh in on any of that. What I will say was it was an epic night at ye ol’ Stadium. What was lost in an epic finish and resurgence of an old rivalry? The battle for the lead. The show you and Ebersole put on, side by side, for that many laps, multiple times was a sight to see. He showed talent by hangin it out there like that (hard to do). You showed respect driving it down on the dirt at times to race him fair. The outcome wasnt what anyone wanted but that isolated battle was what racing is all about to me. Kudos to both of you all for putting on a show there.” Now, will I fight? you are right. I work hard on my car while people like you are sleeping. You hit my race car and take it out on the last lap after I put 40 to 50 hours a week in it, I will be pissed. You are way off the mark by your comments about “THE CIRCUS” There is plenty of good racing that goes on along with the family rivalries that have went on for generations. I have families that have followed our family for years at BGS. Luke won his first Tour race at BGS. People come from all over the US to tour our race shop. I have fans in Australia,Porta Rico, Mexico even the Middle East. While I let everyone have their say, just makes me sick that you forget the talent that Matthew Dillner was talking about in his facebook comment. While we are the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH” we aint the circus. Most of us are God fearing families that go out of our way to help the community and people in need. We help each other, loan parts, straighten frames even when we know the same person may take us out of the race the next week. Call it what you want, I have been racing for close to 35 years, still doing it every Saturday night. Come on down, ” I’ll SEE YOU IN THE FRONT” God Bless, THE SHOWSTOPPER Chris Fleming

  20. since '49 says:

    Bowman Gray is to racing what ‘rasling is to wrestling.

  21. Andy da woodchuck says:

    One thing.. Bowman Gray is packed all the time while the tracks (especially the speedbowl) go half full.. Take it what it is wrestling or whatever but people like it and go to support.

  22. Mark says:

    Curtis, most of the Cup races have been sold out this year. Phoenix, California, Darlington, Las Vegas. You have a point bringing up Dover but they never sellout out there. Just saying, attendance has actually been strong this year at the Cup events. Weather factored into a few others.

    People complain about the style of racing shown during the MRS race but when was the last time a sanction body or track race director has put someone to the back for it? Um never? The inmates run the asylum. My personnel takeaway is Barrett isn’t good enough to pass a guy like Szegedy clean.

    Besides the fact that gets a huge response on here, why are we talking about BG? We need a WMT to happen soon so we can get back to talking about things that matter.

  23. Larry Tomar says:

    Well said Chris, the purists in racing have left many a race track closed and promoters broken. Racing is entertainment, it’s not ballet dancing. The drivers at BG are some of the most skill full drivers anywhere. People can race wheel to wheel at over 100 miles per hour around a football field but wrecks do happen and tempers do get riled up on occasion. On the last lap of a short track race those battling for the lead always try and give it that little extra. Sometimes it works and sometimes bad things happen. Never in my over 30 years of covering auto racing have I seen the passion anywhere else that is shown every week at BG by the drivers, and by the fans. One thing about a circus, when it comes to town it lasts for days! So does the passion at BG. Having been a promoter , announcing, writer, photographer for years, I’ll take an entertaining show every week over a boring “clean style” of racing. If the writer had even spent his money running a race track he’d have a different perspective. I’ve had to try and pay a purse and other bills after another clean night of racing with few fans in the stands. If the writer of the article had spent his money running a race track he would look at things differently.

  24. Bill MIngus says:

    Bowman Gray is following the formula cooked up oh so many years ago by some of NASCAR’s founders. It hasn’t changed and chances are it never will. It’s a throw back from days gone by like no other I’ve ever seen. Over the top? On occassion. Successful? Absolutely. One thing you won’t see anyone say about BGS is “foreclosure sale”…unlike your beloved Speedbowl.

  25. Jeff Harpe says:

    This clown makes about as much sense as Geoff Bodine did saying he didn’t use the bumper when he was in a Mod.

  26. Terry says:

    They must be doing something right, you are talking about them. There is more comments about this post than any recent nascar related post you had. hmmm

  27. Rich C. says:

    All I can say is 1979 Daytona 500 with Cale Yarbrough and Donnie Allison. Where would NASCAR be now if that had not happened? BGS is no different. While Junior’s actions AFTER the race were not appropriate, it boils down to yet another clash in a feud that has been going on for longer than most of the fans there have been going to the races. Be truthful here – how many people would be at Stafford if the Christophers had driven everyone clean? Do you think that Bugsy and Richie never whacked each other? It is the uncertainty that drives attendance and helps make our sport so entertaining.

  28. JCHIM says:

    Compare the finishes posted by sids view of the last Waterford race with Lutz and the Valenti Thompson race with Barrett. You tell me which is the better show? So my “purist” view that an exciting side by side race to the finish is the nail in the coffin for a race track like Waterford? The “smart” thinking is the driver should put on a show by putting any leader into the wall to take the win? Maybe have a fist fight at the start finish to sell some tickets?

  29. jeff says:

    you sir no not of what you speak. I cordially invite you to partake a night of racing at historic & beloved bgs & your eyes will be opened to the greatest short track racing experience of your life, guaranteed! the cars are top notch, the drivers are of utmost quality talent, & the show (circus if you must call it that) is like none other in America. that’s the reason 13,000 plus have been packing the stands for 66 years. just like in racing the stats & numbers do not lie!!

  30. JCHIM says:

    I am 99.999% sure Richie Evans has a very strong reputation as a very clean driver. A very helpful and polite driver to his competitors. He was not known as someone to go around wrecking anyone for win. All this “I loosened him up” crap started to take off with Dale Sr. It was dumb then and dumb now. This is not black and white I know, cars hit when racing on an oval. Jeff, compare the two videos and tell me which is the better race. If you think seeing the leader run up to the wall on the last lap and then finishing 7th and mr 2nd place getting the win is better than two cars battling to the finish line, that is fine with me. We just like two different things. I would go to see good racing, not the winner getting socked in the face by a fan in victory lane.

  31. Brian Rupe says:

    Say what you want but almost every asphalt track is hurting for there weekly series, yet Bowman Grey packs in 18-22 thousand people every week. They’re doing something right and the fans like the drama

  32. Fred says:

    I think a large attraction to bgs has some to do with the fact they don’t charge a pant load to get in. It’s a show to but it’s inexpensive for families. The southern mod tour is there and its max 17 bucks for one adult for Friday and Saturday night . It’s the same at Lebanon valley. Lebanon valley is packed every saturday night.

    As a track owner Would you rather have 2000 people paying 20 bucks or would you rather 15000 people paying 8 bucks. Simple math will answer that question. More people means more concessions more t shirt sales, more people taking about it and possibly bringing some one in Whose never been. I’m not a business major but this seems simple to me. There model works because it’s inexpensive , I’m certain it’s never boring and they actually try to make it that way. Wake up. people are not beating down the doors anymore to spend there money. You have to adapt or you will have to find a job.

    While I don’t agree with the on track slam fest, they are getting it done. And people keep coming back week after week after week regardless of what happened the week before. Jmo

  33. darealgoodfella says:

    Well, a couple years ago, there was mayhem up here, I think it was Thompson with the regular pit brawls. I think there was a family of brothers involved, it was the northern version of Madhouse. On track incidents led to drama in the pits. It wasn’t the Tour, another class. Did it help ticket sales or car counts?

  34. John bob says:

    Funny that 20yrs ago when Earnhardt put someone in the wall for the lead/win everybody loves it…and that was usually done at 200mph. Or when Tony Stewert throws his helmet at someone that’s ok too. But don’t let it happen at BG because then it’s a circus. Racing at any track is better for the drama & circus act. If u want to watch one car lead the race start to finish then watch F1

  35. Barbara says:

    Life is so complicated and hard at times. Many individuals go to BGS to cheer for their drivers and to forget about life outside the stadium walls. BGS is more than a race track, it is a family tradition for many like myself. It is a place where my family has gone for the last three generations. We all pull for our favorite drivers and cheer when they win or go after the car that took them out!! I remember seeing my grandmother, pulling for Paul Ralford, hollering and screaming, while my mom pulled for Phiillip Smith and myself, Ralph Brinkley. In today’s society, we are constantly trying to be politically correct, judgmental and negative when we do not understand something that someone else is enjoying. You don’t have to understand. You don’t even have to come to BGS. Just tend to your own affairs and if you don’t like BGS, stay away and leave the 1000s that do alone.If BGS offends you, then you have offended me by being offended. So whose offendendiness matters the most? In the words of a wise man that once gave me some amazing advice, my grandfather…..:Get over yourself and go find something else to complain about!”

  36. Keith says:

    While some of the escapades at BGS do go a little overboard, the overall experience is outstanding. It’s a quater mile track. Do you really think that these mods with 600 HP can get around this track with all passing on the outside? You have to use the “chrome horn” to create space. And, I do believe thhat term came into existence up North, where there is much more opportunity for Modified racing. There is a big difference in completely wrecking someone and using the bumper to create space. It’s all in how the driver bumps the other car and how that lead driver reacts to the bump. Chris Fleming took some pretty decent shots a couple of weeks ago from Burt Myers and was able to stay in front. Chris took up a lot of space on the straights that upset Burt, but in the end, they park beside each other in the pits each week. Burt and Jason’s kids love Chris. It’s all racing man. i go to other tracks and see 10 cars in the main division with 800 people in the stands???? How is that good racing?

  37. Robert Hodges says:

    7,500 seats that are available at a track in a market that is far larger than that of what BGS has available. That in itself should null and void this argument from get go. Its like a 150 average bowler writing a blog telling the pro bowlers how to do their job better. As was stated in one comment you have received more attention writing your article than you have on any other. You my friend have done nothing more than use BGS for your own personal gain and that is indicative of why your racing community might be falling apart. There’s a saying “the only person that can pick on my brother is me,” I may not like all the drivers at BGS, I do not pull for all the drivers at BGS, but I do respect the drivers of BGS. They perform under the conditions that are given to them. More often than not what doesn’t make the social networking posts are the night nights where there is side by side racing on a flat 1/4 mile track. You won’t write about that for fear of having to acknowledge the talent it takes to do that. Please remember we are talking about a local weekly racing series, this is not your standardized corporate version of racing that is so dauntingly ruining what racing is all about. At BGS it’s not about selling “Product A,” its about racing. As a fan, that is why I’d rather go to BGS than watch the corporate racing lottery the rest of the country calls the Sprint Cup series.

Leave a Reply