NASCAR tries dirt at Bristol


A couple weeks ago, NASCAR ran its first Cup Series race on dirt since 1970. To do this, they covered the concrete high banks in 23,000 cubic yards of dirt to create it.

After weeks of working the track, Bristol hosted a week-long dirt racing event, the Bristol Dirt Nationals. This helped prepare the track for the NASCAR races. 

Fast forward to March 26, practice day. Both the NASCAR Truck Series and Cup Series are racing, getting two practices each. All four sessions went great and drivers praised the track. 

A day later, both series were expected to have heat race qualifying and the truck race was scheduled to take place. However, it rained the night before, a lot. The track crews prepped the track and made it ready to race on, though it was a little muddy. 

In the first lap of the first Truck Series heat races, all trucks except the leader had mud covering their front ends and windshields.

NASCAR red-flagged the race and the Saturday action was postponed. The heat races were canceled and the truck race was rescheduled for Sunday after the Cup race.

That Saturday night, a major rain storm came through Bristol again causing major flooding of campgrounds, parking lots and merchandise areas. The track wasn’t flooded, but it was extremely muddy. 

NASCAR was forced to postpone Sunday’s events as more rain was forecast for the afternoon. 

Then, on Monday, they finally raced! Both the truck race and cup race ran and were exciting and action packed. 

The only issue NASCAR ran into was during the second half of the cup race, they had to switch to single-file restarts (instead of the typical double-file format) due to sun glare mixed with the dust from the track. 

The drivers couldn’t see! 

Looking back on the weekend, there is a lot to unpack. Here are the main points.

Truck race heat races: Dirt tracks being a little muddy isn’t unheard of. The only difference between what we saw at Bristol compared to your local dirt track was the cars themselves, the windshields primarily.

Dirt cars don’t use the normal windshield, they use metal fencing, almost like chicken wire. This allows for the dirt/mud to just fly through and not impair the drivers’ vision. Drivers usually wear helmets with visor tear-offs so they can see. 

Why couldn’t NASCAR switch the windshields? Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe they just didn’t have them on site or couldn’t get them quick enough. This issue also hasn’t happened in the eight years the Truck Series has been racing on dirt at Eldora. 

Single-file restarts: NASCAR’s rule book states officials can tweak a rule during an event to be able to continue the event. This restart change was just that. 

People on social media didn’t seem to understand this, but what NASCAR officials did worked. The race was able to continue and it’s common practice at local short tracks, dirt or pavement. 

Lastly, weather: NASCAR or Bristol doesn’t have any control over what Mother Nature does. I believe they made the correct decision by postponing the Sunday races early so that race fans didn’t come, wait in the rain, and then have to leave. 

People are calling on NASCAR to move the Bristol spring race date because of frequent rainouts during spring weekend.

But there are a lot of factors that go into moving a NASCAR weekend date. Multiple parties need to be on-board, like television partners, town and state officials, and NASCAR. 

We shall see how it goes. Next column we’ll talk about NASCAR testing rain tires on short tracks, which is HUGE news in the NASCAR world.

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