The NASCAR dirt weekend at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway was met with high expectations. It’s the first time since 1970 that NASCAR’s premiere series would race on dirt. So, you can totally understand why this race was garnering so much attention from the racing circles.
In fact, one could say that the anticipation for this weekend was as high as it would be for Daytona. It’s all anyone wanted to talk about. Pre season? Bristol dirt. Daytona 500 media week availabilities? Bristol dirt. The closer and closer we got to this weekend, the anticipation and excitement only grew more and more.
On Friday, the crescendo to this moment took us to a level that we hadn’t seen in years. See, there were four combined practice sessions, two for Trucks and two for Cup, around the .533-mile oval and the crowd packed in as much as they could with socially distancing in place. It’s been a long time since practice felt like a big event.
When practice was around pre COVID, most tracks were ghost towns until race day. This time, the excitement levels were high.
Unfortunately, that’s where the levels started dipping the other direction. Practice was fun to see, but problems started arising quickly via a tire issue. The Cup guys couldn’t go too long without the tires wearing out. Without live pit stops this weekend, questions starting raising on how they’d even make it to the end of the stage breaks without needing tires. Plus, with a 100 lap final sprint to the end in the final stage, there’s no way they’d make it to the end without the tires literally coming apart.
So, NASCAR had to adapt. The Cup race would have the first couple of stages move from 75 to 100 laps in length, but also get a competition caution in the middle of each. Cautions would then fly on Lap 50, Lap 100, Lap 150 and Lap 200. That’s not counting any cautions that would arise for on track incidents either.
Then, mother nature really put a damper on things. It rained heavily on Saturday morning. That caused chaos on getting this track surface prepared. Pack cars crashed. When they thought they made enough headway to get the Truck race heats going, it only lasted one lap. The mud was too thick and filled the windshields bad enough for the red flag to fall to get the trucks cleaned and the track further prepared to make another go at it.
The problem was, rain was near and the skies opened up putting Saturday out of its misery. Everything would then be moved to Sunday with heat races being canceled. We’d start on the old formulas for both races now.
That was just the tip of the iceberg though. The rain never let up. Flooding ensued and NASCAR made quick work of things on Sunday to just postpone everything again back a day to Monday.
The Truck race will begin around Noon ET on FS1 with the Cup race starting around 4 p.m. ET on FOX.
Pinty Foods Truck Race on Dirt Race Info
⏰ 12 pm ET
Distance: 150 Laps/75 Miles
Stage Lengths: 40-50-60
Race: 5 of 22
Food City Dirt Race Info
⏰ 4pm ET
Distance: 250 Laps/125 Miles
Stage Lengths: 100-100-50
Comp Cautions: Lap 50, Lap 150
Race: 5 of 22
That’s if the track is prepared well enough. See, this isn’t the usual concrete racing surface to where once the rain stops, you put out the jet dryers, buffalo blowers and Air Titans and the track gets dried and ready to go. This is dirt. Dirt is different.
With so much water soaking into the dirt, it’s created a muddy mess. Then, you have to factor in there’s a concrete race track below the dirt. The water, soaks down through soil and pools without anywhere to go.
You don’t typically have this problem on existing dirt tracks that are made specifically for dirt because there’s not a race track below it. This one at Bristol, well it needs all that moisture to make its way back up and then to dry out.
You can’t run Air titans or jet blowers on dirt. That’s not how this works. The track is a muddy pit and it’s only going to get worse, even when it’s not raining. The mud has to dry enough for the track prep to even begin again.
Just look at Saturday as a prime example. It didn’t rain for hours before the Heat races and just look on how muddy the racing surface was. They have to have a lot of sunlight to bring that water up and then it has to dry again.
That’s why I’m even skeptical that the Truck race can even begin at Noon ET on Monday. I’m even questioning on if the Cup race can even start at 4 p.m. ET. It’s going to take a lot of dry time and sunshine for this to start drying naturally.
It’s sad because this is nothing the track or NASCAR could do. This isn’t their fault. They’re trying. They’re working hard, but they’re fighting a losing battle right now.
While this is all gloom and doom right now, the forecast is going to allow this race to get going. The week forecast in Bristol looks great. There’s plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures to help. The only thing is, just how long will it be for the track to start coming back around?
That’s an answer no one but the track surface and mother nature can answer. Unfortunately, the momentum and anticipation is now long gone. You just have to do whatever you can do to get the race in at this point.
The problem is, what will that race then look like. Get it too dry and you get the track rubbering in and the tires not making this a good show. Get it too wet and the track is a mud pit with mud filling the windshield and treacherous action.
The window to get this right is small and with so much rain falling, it doesn’t help.