NASCAR is hosting a comeback weekend on one of its most memorable tracks.
The Cup Series cars will race on gravel for the first time in more than half a century when the green flag drops for the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. The last clay race was held on September 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Food City Dirt Race in Bristol, including heat race line-ups, rule changes and car modifications.
Why is NASCAR racing on gravel in Bristol?
NASCAR saw how popular the annual Truck Series dirt race at Eldora Speedway was and decided to have the Cup cars race on the surface as well. Bristol is a great place to take a trip down memory lane; the track is loved by fans and runners alike, and the facility is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
How did the last great Colosseum turn into a dirt track?
We went backstage with the crew to @BMSupdates discover!
– NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 25, 2021
Of course, dirt was the racing surface of choice during the early days of NASCAR.
“This is nothing new for NASCAR,” Clint Bowyer, analyst at Fox told the Bristol website. Bowyer will be part of the broadcast team for the race. “It’s back to where we came from. I think it’s something to stay focused on and remember too. It’s not just completely thrown out of nowhere. It’s something from our past and of our history. “
NASCAR canceled the Eldora dirt truck race last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak and then moved the race to Bristol. The Truck Series will host another dirt race in July at Knoxville, Iowa Raceway.
How does the qualification work?
Qualifying for the Bristol dirt race will consist of four qualifying races of 15 consecutive laps on Saturday. NASCAR divided the heat racing fields almost evenly among the 39 cars entered for the main race: three 10-car fields and one nine-car field. The starting line-ups for each round were determined by a draw, in the order of the ranking of pilot points.
Qualifying race 1
|1||Quin Houff||StarCom Racing|
|2||Kyle larson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|3||Ryan newman||Roush Fenway Racing|
|4||Denny hamlin||Joe gibbs racing|
|5||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe gibbs racing|
|6||Bubba wallace||23XI Race|
|7||Erik Jones||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|8||Anthony Alfredo||Motorsport in the front row|
|9||Shane Golobic||Fast live motor sports|
|ten||Kurt busch||Chip Ganassi Racing|
Qualifying race 2
|1||Brad Keselowski||Penske team|
|2||Mike Marlar||Motorsport business management|
|3||Daniel Suarez placeholder image||Trackhouse Racing Team|
|4||Michael mcdowell||Motorsport in the front row|
|5||Josh Bilicki||Rick ware racing|
|6||William byron||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|8||Christopher bell||Joe gibbs racing|
|9||Austin dillon||Richard Childress Racing|
|ten||Chris Buescher||Roush Fenway Racing|
Qualifying race 3
|1||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports|
|2||JJ Yeley||Rick ware racing|
|3||Ty dillon||Gaunt Brothers Racing|
|4||Kevin harvick||Stewart-Haas races|
|5||Tyler reddick||Richard Childress Racing|
|6||Cole custer||Stewart-Haas races|
|7||Cody ware||Petty ware racing|
|8||Aric almirola||Stewart-Haas races|
|9||Joey logano||Penske team|
|ten||Ryan preece||JTG Daugherty Racing|
Qualifying race 4
|1||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports|
|2||Matt DiBenedetto||Wood brothers racing|
|3||Chris Windom||Rick ware racing|
|4||Kyle busch||Joe gibbs racing|
|5||Ross chastain||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|6||Stewart friesen||Spire Motorsports|
|7||Ryan blaney||Penske team|
|8||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports|
|9||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas races|
NASCAR will use a two-part points system to define the starting lineup for the main race.
The first part is the order of finishing in heat races. The winner of each round will receive 10 points while the 10th driver will receive one point.
The second part is the number of positions a driver wins in a heat race. Drivers will receive one point per position gained and will not have any points deducted for losing positions.
The two point totals will be added to determine an overall point total. Ties will be broken by position in the current owner’s point ranking.
These qualification points are strictly to define the starting formation. They will not be added to a driver’s season point total.
NASCAR schedule in Bristol
The Cup Series race will crown a full weekend of dirt racing in Thunder Valley. The Camping World Truck Series will run in Bristol on Saturday (series and main) before and after the Cup heat races. Each series will have two practice sessions on Friday.
Qualifying Race 1 for the Cup Series is scheduled to start at 6:00 pm with the next three races scheduled for 6:15 pm, 6:30 pm and 6:45 pm Sunday’s main race is scheduled to start after 3:30 pm.
Friday March 26
|First drive of the Truck series||3:05 p.m.||FS1, TSN3|
|First Cup Series training||4:05 p.m.||FS1, TSN3|
|Truck series final tests||5:35 p.m.||FS1, TSN3|
|Cup Series Final Practice||6:35 p.m.||FS1, TSN3|
Saturday March 27
|First truck qualifying race||4:30 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Second Truck Qualifying Race||4:45 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Third Truck Qualifying Race||5 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Fourth Truck Qualifying Race||5:15 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Qualifying race for the first cup||6 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Second Cup qualifying race||6:15 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Qualifying race for the third Cup||6.30 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Qualifying race for the fourth Cup||6:45 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
|Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt||8 p.m.||FS1, TSN2|
Sunday March 28
|Event||Time||TV and radio|
|Food City Dirt Race||3:30 p.m.||Fox, TSN, PRN|
Car modifications for the Bristol dirt race
The change of surface required modifications of the cars, mainly on the exterior. Viewers will be able to spot the differences.
For starters, the front overhang of the separator is gone. A contraption called a debris deflector can appear on the hoods of some cars. Crews can cover ducts with screens or other materials to keep dirt out. The rear spoiler will be larger than it usually is for short track racing. Cars can be reinforced on the sides and in high stress areas such as the bridge and steering arm.
Racing fans who expect cars to drift around corners will be disappointed. As Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass noted, NASCAR decided not to install suspensions that would have made the cars more agile due to the cost to the teams.
“They don’t drive anything like I’m used to with a sprint car, a midget or now a very late model,” said Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson, who drove a late model two second on the weekends. -last last at The Bristol Dirt Nationals. “These cars are much heavier and have a lot less power than I’m used to on a dirt road.”
The Cup cars weigh 1,000 pounds more than the latest model cars driven by Larson.
Bristol dirt race tours, format and other rules to know
UPDATE: NASCAR introduced several changes to the race format on Saturday after receiving feedback on Friday practice sessions.
Stages 1 and 2 will now be 100 laps each and stage 3 will be 50 laps. The distribution of the previous stage was 75, 75 and 100 laps. There will now be competition warnings on rounds 50 and 150 to allow teams to pit. The initial pit schedule was only during stage breaks or if a car was involved in an incident. The competition warnings will also allow NASCAR to work on the racing surface.
The Bristol Cup Series dirt race is scheduled for 250 turns (133.25 miles), which is half the usual number of laps for a Cup race on the concrete track in Bristol. The race will be divided into three stages: 75, 75 and 100 laps. Drivers won’t need to stop for fuel at any point.
And pit stops will be limited anyway. They will only be allowed during breaks between stages or if a car is involved in an incident. Teams will have the option of not stinging at all during a stage break. Drivers who stay outside will start in front of the field during restarts. Cars will not be allowed to run on or off the pit road, which remains concrete. Positions will not be gained or lost during stops.
NASCAR says pit lane entry and exit procedures will be similar to pit stops during Eldora truck races. NASCAR sets all of these conditions in the name of safety.
The laps with the caution flag will count in the main race, unlike the qualifying races where only the laps with the green flag will count.
Although NASCAR is racing a short track this weekend, there will be no “choice” rule, which allows drivers to choose the inside or outside lane during restarts. As NASCAR.com says, “The difficulty of maintaining an orange ‘V’ on the clay racing surface was a key determining factor in this decision.”
NASCAR Wire Service hardware was used in this report.