5 burning questions for Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race (7 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN)

What Kind Of Racing Will We See This Weekend?

Last year’s race was vastly better than the year prior. Part was due to the Next Gen. The other due to the conditions in which they were racing in too.

The 2021 race was being questioned from the get-go for even trying to race during the day. See, there’s a reason most dirt tracks across the country stage races at night.

That’s because of a combination of the moisture and ambient conditions and the dirt in the track. At night, there’s natural moisture in the air which helps advance a better racing surface. It’s better to have a dirt race at night, rather than during the day, to help with track prep too.

Well, 250 laps around a dirt track during the day could cause this to become a one groove race track too. That’s exactly what happened for the inaugural year.

All that rain that fell in the eastern Tennessee mountains plus a day race created a mess. The track got so dry, it was hard to even see as it became a dusty one groove race track.

250 laps for 40 cars that weigh 3,400 pounds isn’t ideal for a make shift dirt track. So, conditions have to be perfect and running during the day already starts off on the wrong footing.

Last year, the race is scheduled for a nighttime event. It greatly helped the show.

It didn’t take in rubber and created multiple lanes to pass on.

Rubber settling into a race track is a good thing for asphalt tracks, but not for dirt. With that many laps, if the track rubbers in as the race goes on, we may not be in store for a very good show.

Nighttime helps with that.

Another factor in all this too is lapped traffic. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. That’s standard for Bristol anyways, but it’s even more treacherous this weekend due to the guys in the back likely being all over the place. See, you can get wrapped up in a lapped cars mess and not have any time to slow down and get collected yourself. It happens every night on dirt tracks. The leader is constantly battling lapped traffic and the minute a lapper spins or gets upside down, sometimes the leader has no where to go but into the mess.

Eldora ran as Kyle Busch says more like an ice skating rink than dirt. I mean, a Cup car isn’t made for dirt, even this Next Gen, so it could have a slick track tendency instead of guys driving their cars in the corners deep and getting sideways. It may be more throttle control instead. 

That leads to the weird factor of needing less horsepower instead of more.

The other factor is that there’s not any live pit stops. You can only pit during stage breaks. So, that will allow for some strategy calls. With the first two stages only being 75 laps in length, one would figure that you can go until the end of the second stage without having to pit for fuel. If you stay out, you stay up front and don’t lose spots to those who did pit. That in turn leads to the question, how important are tires going to be? Is it a benefit to pit for tires at the end of both stage breaks, or will you have some roll the dice and gamble on just staying out?

If tires aren’t a factor, then you may see two separate strategy calls. How many pit at the end of the first stage and know that they can go the final 175 laps until the end without needing to stop? That means you just pit once all day and not again?

The flip side of that is, how many stay out after the first stage and use the stage break for Stage 2 (Lap 150) to pit for their first and only time?

That’s two varying strategies that you know some may use. 

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – MARCH 29: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 29, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

How Much Does Past Dirt Experience Truly Pay Off?

So far, dirt experience hasn’t paid off as much here as we would have thought. We’re two races in and the likes of Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe are shutout.

Joey Logano was a 30-1 winner in the inaugural race. Kyle Busch was a 16-1 winner last year. Do we follow a similar trend this weekend?

“The dirt guys, I would say, definitely have an advantage,” Kyle Busch noted before the inaugural race. “The more experience you have on dirt, the more trust you have in what the vehicle can do on dirt and what your driving style is or what your driving technique can be and how you can trust the grip level that the dirt has versus what your car has. I think there’s a lot of things that the dirt guys can really pick up on. You always see in those truck races the guys that are good at it, that put some time into it, are better than the ones that are not. I can’t name them all, but (Kyle) Larson, Christopher (Bell), (Tyler) Reddick, even Bubba (Wallace). Bubba never really had any dirt experience, but he did a good job in the Eldora race for us (winning in 2014). (Stewart) Friesen, I think he will actually do a really good job. He’s obviously known as a dirt guy. Those guys will shine, and I think that they will be faster during points of the weekend, but I think it’s all going to be circumstantial on how it comes down to the end and what exactly happens towards the finish.”

While they know what the car should feel like from the drivers seat, wresting a Cup car around a half mile race track on dirt is a whole different beast than a Midget. While there’s pressure on these drivers to perform Sunday in Bristol, do they have a leg up with dirt experience?

“I think people look at me with all the experience that I have on dirt as being even more of a favorite,” said Larson. “But these cars are way different than what I typically race on dirt. They don’t drive anything like what I’m used to with a sprint car, midget or now a dirt late model. These cars are way heavier and have a lot less horsepower than I’m used to on a dirt track.

“I still think I’ve got a good shot, but I don’t really know if I have an advantage over anybody, other than just being able to kind of read the track surface; know kind of how that’s changing, where to find grip and things like that.”

In saying that, the top six finishers of the 2021 race had odds entering the race of 30-1 (Logano), 14-1 (Stenhouse Jr.), 25-1 (Hamlin), 100-1 (Suarez), 50-1 (Newman) and 66-1 (Byron). 25-1 Martin Truex Jr. Led the most laps.

Last year, it was 18-1 Busch followed by Reddick (14-1), Logano (8-1), Larson (6-1) and Blaney (16-1).

So, how much does dirt experience truly play?

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – MARCH 29: A general view of the dirt track during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 29, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Can NASCAR Make Easter Night Work?

NBA has Christmas Day. NFL has Thanksgiving Day. Can NASCAR make Easter work? See, it’s not common for NASCAR to race on Easter. In the history of the sport, they’ve raced just 12 times on the holiday, including last year.

The first came in 1953 on the Charlotte Speedway dirt track. Dick Passwater won. They then ran on Central City Speedway a year later before taking the next four years off. Then, they came back in 1959 and stayed racing on Easter 8 times in a 12 year span on 7 different tracks. All in the southeast.

The thing is, it wasn’t just Easter they ran on. They also raced on the Saturday night before in 1952, 1958, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971 and 1985.

Basically, on Easter weekend, they’ve ran 20 times now, but 17 of them were between 1952-1971. Among those 17, 11 were on Easter itself and 8 on the Saturday before.

That ended in 1972 and they stayed away from the holiday from then through 1984. They brought it back in 1985 but paused every year since with the exception in 1989 when Richmond was ran that Easter. The only reason though, was due to weather in February so they postponed it to Easter that season.

They’ve not raced on that weekend in NASCAR’s premiere series since. Until the last two years.

Richard Petty won three times on Easter Sunday, the most of any driver.


1953Charlotte SpeedwayDick Passwater
1954Central City SpeedwayGober Sosebee
1959Wilson SpeedwayJunior Johnson
1960Wilson SpeedwayRichard Petty
1961Hickory Motor SpeedwayCotton Owens
1962Martinsville SpeedwayRichard Petty
1963South Boston SpeedwayRichard Petty
1965North Wilkesboro SpeedwayJunior Johnson
1969Hickory Motor SpeedwayBobby Isaac
1970Atlanta Motor SpeedwayBobby Allison
1989Richmond RacewayRusty Wallace

So, why bring it back now?

I get NASCAR is trying to get their own holiday, but I didn’t know heading into last year’s race if this is the right one. How many people were going to travel on Easter, and if they do so, does being Easter Night hurt those plans?

The NFL and NBA playing on holiday’s are during the day. You have afternoon get togethers. Do people get together on Easter night?

Last year proved that they did.

Bristol Dirt produced over 4-million viewers which was up 28% over the year prior and was the highest rated Bristol spring race since 2016. The number peaked at 4.5-million which is the No. 2 watched race last season behind only the Daytona 500. Even the Truck race was up 87% from the year before with 1.1 million people watching on a Saturday night before Easter. That’s a massive number for Easter Night and Easter weekend in general and one that will show that NASCAR has likely found a new date to race on.

However, the drivers still don’t like it one bit though. Kyle Larson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio ahead of last year’s race that with windshields, that these cars won’t put on the best show possible. He wasn’t a fan of racing a Cup car on dirt anyways. While he says that the race ran well on Sunday, he’s still not sold on it.

Neither was Kyle Busch or Chase Elliott or anyone else for that nature that was willing to talk. Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano questioned why were were wasting a much needed holiday weekend to race.

They said the TV number better make it worth it.

Well, it was. Now what? Do they keep it next year and beyond?

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – APRIL 17: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Will Dominating Driver End Up In Victory Lane?

Tyler Reddick led a race-high 99 of 250 laps a year ago but was pushed out of the way in the final corner by Chase Briscoe in a bonsai shot at a win. It ruined both of their chances and allowed Kyle Busch to sneak by leading the only lap of the race for him – the final one. Daniel Suarez led 64 laps but finished 12th. Briscoe led 59 laps but was 23rd. The only other driver to lead a lap was Kyle Larson (27 laps led) as he came home 4th.

It was a lot like the 2021 edition.

Martin Truex Jr. led 126 of 253 laps and finished 19th. Daniel Suarez led 58 laps but was 4th. Busch led 7 laps in 17th while third-place finisher, Denny Hamlin, led a single lap.

The only other driver to lead that day was Logano who led the final 61 laps in victory.

So, what happens on Sunday? Does someone dominate but not win again?

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – MARCH 26: A general vie of trucks during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 26, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

What Will Be SMI’s Next Trick?

Atlanta, Bristol Dirt and North Wilkesboro are just the latest outside of the box projects that SMI has done. I have a feeling though, they won’t be the last. Now that Atlanta looked better last month and Bristol Dirt put on a heck of a show last year, what do they have their eyes on for the future?

From the Texas repave/reconfigure, to Charlotte moving the Fall race to the ROVAL, to Bristol moving the spring race to a dirt event and now to Atlanta’s similar fate to Texas, what’s next?

They have to do so in order to stay ahead of the NASCAR owned tracks. New Hampshire lost a date, Atlanta was down to one date, Dover was looking bleak, Kentucky was gone and it was time for some changes.

So, Dover got a date shifted to Nashville Superspeedway who maybe soon gets moved to the Fairgrounds? Is that the next move?

They moved the All-Star race from Charlotte to Bristol to Texas to now North Wilkesboro. The thing is, Texas lost a date in the process.

Atlanta made changes and now has two dates again. Vegas has poured a lot in to keep two dates. Sonoma isn’t going anywhere. Charlotte’s two separate dates (oval, ROVAL) seem to be their future. Bristol is clearly thinking outside of the box.

So, what’s next?

Noen of these moves were popular in the garage but they’re working…

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