This Bristol race was the most hyped NASCAR event in years and with that, I think we all went into this just assuming that NASCAR had this under control. I think we have now all left this race realizing that wasn’t the case. To a degree, they were in over their heads.
All that being said, this weekend was a success even with all the bugaboos because NASCAR has announced that they will return to the dirt of Bristol in 2022. The great news about this is that they have time to figure out what they did wrong and how to correct it.
There is plenty of good and plenty of bad to take away from this weekend, and while it all sums up to a positive in my opinion, it’s worth diving into the positives and negatives to see what we should expect next season.
This race is a Cup Series event, the highest form of professional stock car racing. Richard Petty was not wrong in his comments that racing on dirt is “not professional,” but at the end of the day, I think that’s what drew so many fans into it. There was this going to your local track feel that you just don’t get anywhere else.
Watching the cars get covered in dirt and dealing with issues that I myself dealt with when racing at dirt tracks was something I appreciated seeing at this level. This really has nothing to do with the racing or anything that NASCAR itself did, but it’s a unique setting and atmosphere that I don’t think can be recreated in any other form of racing.
- The Pace
Anytime you go to a dirt track, even just a 20 lap event, you can expect at least one caution. It’s just what happens when you race on dirt and get to sliding around. A 250 lap race on dirt was already long, but once you factor in multiple cautions you gotta think that the pace of the race might drag on.
It turns out that was not the case at all, this race actually flew by, and even with cautions, because there were no traditional pit stops they really did not drag on. The idea to only pit under designated times and not make time in the pits a factor I think paid off big time. We got to the end of this race and it left me wanting more, and that in of itself is a success.
- Wildcard Factor
Going into the weekend all anyone could talk about was Kyle Larson and how he and the other experienced dirt racers would dominate this event, but they were virtually a non-factor. Most of the dirt racers ended up either wrecking or just not being able to make it towards the front.
The race was dominated by three guys in Matrin Truex Jr., Daniel Suarez, and Joey Logano, who arguably have the least amount of dirt experience in the field. The fact that this race clearly can be won by anyone and anyone can run well here is reminiscent of a superspeedway race.
- Track Conditions
I think it became painfully obvious that NASCAR was inexperienced to deal with the maintenance of a dirt track before, during, and after a race. Multiple times this week they let drivers out of on the track when it was either too wet or too dry to be safe.
This is something that officials will have to do more research on and maybe bring some more experienced dirt track owners to help them with this next year. They have a team owner named Tony Stewart who I think owns a dirt track that’s fairly successful, but I’m not sure that he is inclined to help NASCAR. Smoke is still salty about NASCAR’s decision to go to Bristol instead of Eldora.
- Race Start Time
When is the last time you went to the main race feature at a dirt track and it was driven in the middle of the day? It doesn’t happen, not because it’s just tradition, but because racing during the day makes the track too dry; as we saw, that was the case in yesterday’s race.
This race should’ve been a night race, and I don’t quite understand why it wasn’t. Almost every major NASCAR race takes place at night and this race has the potential to be a crown jewel event. We’ve groaned about start times all year, hopefully, NASCAR starts to listen next year.
- Mid-Race Audibles
Once again, we are the highest form of professional stock car racing and the most popular autosport in America. It is unacceptable to change the rules of an event midway through. That is a move you do when you and your buddies are playing around in the backyard. Changing from double to single file is not even a move I think a local dirt track would pull.
To me, this is a nearly unforgivable sin and goes back to how ill-prepared NASCAR was. The proper thing to do would’ve been to take 15-20 minutes to red flag the race and wet the track down. Yes, it still would have been a bad look, but it wouldn’t have looked nearly as unprofessional as changing the rules of the race. Next year they need to cement the rules and stick with them.