- NASCAR Cup Series r​acing on dirt in 2021 at Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series on dirt – a compelling reason to watch an entire race on TV

D​irt is a whole different surface that requires new skills to conquer

2w ago
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Hey, did you watch the big race on Monday? What big race you say? On Monday?

Yes, that’s right. On Monday. The NASCAR faithful among us will no doubt immediately realize that the subject of this “AutoMatters & More” was a rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series race.

There are several situations where NASCAR’s Cup Series does not race. For instance, they do not race on superspeedways in the rain. They also have not raced on dirt for over 50 years, but that all changed this past Monday with the running of the torrentially rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series FOOD CITY DIRT RACE at Bristol Motor Speedway.

B​ristol Motor Speedway covered in dirt

B​ristol Motor Speedway covered in dirt

Bristol was painstakenly transformed from the familiar paved track to a good old-fashioned dirt track. Racing on dirt is why this race was good enough for even casual NASCAR fans to seriously consider watching it flag-to-flag. For the uninitiated among us, that means from the first green flag to the race-ending checkered flag.

The tire wear was fierce at times.

The tire wear was fierce at times.

Let me begin by admitting that even though I always try to record, and then watch, every NASCAR Cup Series race on TV (even those that I cover live and in-person), I rarely watch televised NASCAR Cup Series races in their entirety. As much as I would like to, committing many hours every race weekend to watch, in their entirety, the multiple auto racing series that I follow would require too much of a commitment of time. I, like many of you, simply have too much else going on and competing for what little spare time I may have. While the strategy and the competitive moves of an entire race is certainly interesting to me, I do not have the luxury to routinely watch entire NASCAR Cup Series races.

N​ASCAR Cup Series 2021 dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The racing lines were constantly changing.

N​ASCAR Cup Series 2021 dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The racing lines were constantly changing.

So, what I end up doing when I watch the televised races is I watch some of the introductory commentary by the announcing team, followed by the beginning laps of the race, and then I fast-shuttle my DVR ahead as I scan the video for those telltale yellow alerts — the ones that tell me when and where cautions happened in the race. At each such caution I stop shuttling forward, at which time I rewind back a few laps to watch the set-up to, and the reason for, each full-course yellow. Finally, I watch at least the final ten or 20 laps, and then some post-race interviews and commentary.

A​ fine cloud of dust was raised up from the track and well above the stadium.

A​ fine cloud of dust was raised up from the track and well above the stadium.

I explained this to you in order to emphasize the significance of the fact that I did not do that for this particular race. The wild on-track action as the cars drifted, tails-out, bumping and banging around the track, was too unpredictable, and too exciting to miss laps. I even went so far as to watch the entire preceding NASCAR Truck Series race on dirt at Bristol, too — a race which NASCAR Cup Series competitor Joey Logano helped commentate.

M​artin Truex Jr. was the surprise winner of the Bristol truck race.

M​artin Truex Jr. was the surprise winner of the Bristol truck race.

After that race, Joey’s fellow commentators had challenged him to win the Bristol dirt race, just as another NASCAR Cup Series competitor/commentator had done recently. That is precisely what Joey Logano then went out and did, beating all of the experienced dirt track racers — and a few ringers — in the process, just like Martin Truex Jr. had done in the truck race (surprising even himself)!

This race presented new challenges to most of the drivers and race teams. Kyle Busch seemed like a strong candidate for the race win early on, but soon he found himself a lap down due to an overheated engine. The air intake is supposed to provide cooling air to the engine, but his quickly got covered with thick, wet dirt. That same dirt, combined with the lowering angle of the sun and the clouds of rising dust, also seriously impaired the drivers’ ability to see. That was responsible for some of the many crashes and caution periods.

T​here was a lot of banged-up sheet metal. Thankfully, aerodynamics were not much of an issue.

T​here was a lot of banged-up sheet metal. Thankfully, aerodynamics were not much of an issue.

The race was broken up into several sections of 50 laps — not that the racing stayed under green that long.

Fans got some welcome news. There will be another dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Spring 2022. I cannot wait! I’ll bet Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano would like even more dirt races. How about racing on the beach again at Daytona?! You’ve got to love this!

J​oey Logano — winner of the Food City Dirt Race

J​oey Logano — winner of the Food City Dirt Race

Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #685

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Comments (11)

  • It was definitely an exciting race, but I don’t really think it was very good. There’s a lot of things NASCAR has to work out, and nothing else worked in their favor with the weather and conditions and tires. If they can figure out problems like poor visibility and actually give the drivers testing time, next year’s race could be great going off the small stages of great racing. But if it’s anything like this year I’m not convinced it’s worth taking away the Bristol spring race. Great article Jan!

      16 days ago
    • Thank you, Owen! You might like my next comments. I'm really getting going!

        16 days ago
  • Hi Jan. I don’t follow NASCAR at any level, but can see why this race generated so much interest...the first race on dirt at NASCAR’s highest level in 50 years, then the drama caused by the heavy rain resulting in unsuitable dirt composition and finally, the need to reschedule.

    I didn’t watch the race on TV, but I understand that the fans found it interesting, not because of good racing, but because of a multitude of side issues: variable dirt conditions, poor visibility, blocked exhausts, etc, etc. Its too bad this race had to rely on its quirks rather than its merits.

    Every racing series changes its rules and regulations from time to time, to keep up with technology or to generate fan interest. I remember IndyCar experimented with standing starts for a few races, but it was such a fiasco they dropped the idea. I don’t know if NASCAR plans to schedule many dirt races... it will all depend on fan (and driver) interest.

    On a technical note, I don’t see how a purpose built dirt track with layer upon layer of preparation going down many feet, can be replicated just by dumping tons of “dirt” on an existing asphalt surface. It’s no wonder this dirt washes away in the rain.

      15 days ago
    • There certainly is plenty for everyone to think about, isn't there?

        15 days ago
  • Sometimes you just gotta turn right to go left

      16 days ago
    • Thank you for the comment, Monk.

      The same holds true (turning into the skid) for competing on ice.

      Back in my youth, when I lived up north in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in the winter we autocrossed on the sports car club's ice racing track....

      Read more
        15 days ago
    • Monk,

      I see that you have a Honda Civic. Back in Alberta in the early 1980s, one of my car club friends had a Honda Civic that he gutted and converted into a hill climb car.

      He competed in it at the Knox Mountain Hill Climb in British Columbia,...

      Read more
        15 days ago
  • This dirt thing has got me thinking about all sorts of crazy possibilities. What about special off-road cars — with NASCAR Cup Series-ish bodies, but Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks chassis under the skin, and race on Red Bull Global Rallycross type tracks, with a big jump, some whoop-de-dos and everything. Add in the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series and they'd have a new form of entertainment that could be very popular. Sheldon Creed and Robby Gordon could enter that and do well, I'm sure. It would be tremendously entertaining. I'll bet the drivers would love it, too.

      16 days ago
    • That would be amazing, maybe a full on rallycross circuit with a jump or maybe even the original Daytona course up the beach and down the road. But my biggest thing there is I’d like it to be an exhibition race, maybe for the All Star Race or Clash...

      Read more
        16 days ago
    • I hope that someone from NASCAR reads these comments. We might be on to something.

      Jan

        16 days ago
  • Between the dirt and the dust, the drivers really had trouble seeing. Windshield wipers sure wouldn't help. They would just smear the dirt. Maybe the cars could all be fitted with high-powered windshield washers (and air intake washers, to mitigate the engine overheating). I can see it now. Water strategically shooting up over one car and hitting the ones that are trying to overtake! They could even be used as a tool by a leading driver to slick down the track for a following driver. Jan

      16 days ago
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