Why the Bristol dirt race was the worst NASCAR race since 2008
The 2008 Brickyard 400 tire debacle is the only thing that can cap this Bristol race
Logano may have won NASCAR's first dirt race in decades, but NASCAR didn't. And it's not all their fault. To be fair to the series, heavy rain and driver errors contributed to many of the problems for this race. Unfortunately for the series, there was just a little too much confidence that this race would be a massive success, and there's no way anything but perfection could've lived up to that.
The day started with a truck race, out first to test the track and give some cup drivers necessary track time. Kevin Harvick got that with a win and Joey Logano got to see the race from the booth. While the racing might've been good, the wrecks weren't. With almost no visibility out of the windshields, Kyle Larson plowed into a slower truck. And John Hunter Nemecheck was hit twice after wrecking, once by a competitor who spun under caution and another time by a safety truck who hit after Nemecheck had gotten out of the truck. But if NASCAR could take the positives from this race, the cup race could be pretty good.
But the race was far from good. The mud problem was resolved quickly as the truck dried, and there were shades of great racing, especially from the start. Sure, visibility was an issue and drivers were still figuring out the track. Even I was liking it though, and I still wasn't happy with the spring Bristol date being taken away. But that didn't last. Unfortunately, as happens so often in NASCAR, as the race went on wrecks bred wrecks.
Dust circling the air on the restart wasn't just a problem for the television cameras trying to capture the restart, but also for the drivers themselves. There were plenty of restarts that went right back into caution with a spin as the drivers made contact getting up to speed, unable to see each other with the dust. What should've been small wrecks became massive as drivers who couldn't see or avoid the accident plowed in, and a red flag came out quickly in the first stage.
By lap 150, NASCAR eventually threw up its hands and went to single-file restarts for the remainder of the race. And single-file best describes how the race went from there, with all the battles disappearing and, while lap cars played a role for a time, Logano drove away to the win.
Tony Stewart must be laughing. He's managed to run truck series races at his Eldora Speedway for seven years, but NASCAR passed him over in favor of the prestige of Bristol for their dirt race. So he refused to host the truck race. That didn't go well for NASCAR, with the truck racing being an even bigger mess than the cup race, while Stewart has run them flawlessly at Eldora each time.
And NASCAR's coming back. The crowd at Bristol approved, and if the race can be made up of just the good racing from the beginning, I'll be cheering too. But I don't think NASCAR will. NASCAR hasn't tested the new cars on dirt at all, and it needs to test them before it tries to make another dirt race. The series has proven that big stock cars can make a good race on dirt. NASCAR just needs to actually test and prepare the cars and put on a better race.
It might be an unfair comparison to say the race was like the 2008 Brickyard 400, when 'the tire debacle' led to competition cautions every 10 laps with a seven-lap run to the uncontested finish. This one was much the same, with cautions following cautions constantly in the worst sections of the race. If NASCAR can't figure it out for last year, it'll only get worse for them.