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NASCAR Cup Series to race on dirt track for first time in 51 years

NASCAR’S best taking in Bristol transformation
Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:09 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT
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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WVLT) - Bristol hosted dirt races in 2000-01 with the World of Outlaws and dirt late models. The track used 14,000 truckloads of dirt for the project.

The transformation has taken place once again as this time NASCAR’s top series sees it’s driver’s prepare to navigate their way around the clay on the surface of BMS.

The historic event will mark the first time the Cup Series has raced on dirt in 51 years. The last Cup race on dirt was Sept. 30, 1970 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Richard Petty won a 200-lap race on the half-mile track.

The first race in NASCAR Premier series history was on dirt on 6/19/1949 on the 0.75-mile track known as the Charlotte Speedway, and was won by Jim Roper.

There were 501 NASCAR Premier series races held on dirt between 6/19/1949 and 9/30/1970. 76 different drivers won on dirt, with Lee Petty holding the all-time record of 42 wins.

In the 1949 season, seven of the eight tracks competed upon were dirt. The only pavement was at the Daytona Beach and Road Course.

None of today’s NASCAR Cup Series drivers have raced a Cup car on dirt, however, there will be drivers in Sunday’s field who have won in a NASCAR chassis on dirt.

Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, and Stewart Friesen have all won on the dirt track at Eldora Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Drivers like Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all have dirt racing experience, and could find their way to Victory Lane this weekend at Bristol.

Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series dirt race will feature husband and wife combo, Stewart and Jessica Friesen. The married couple are attempting to become the first to compete against each other in a NASCAR race since Elton Sawyer and Patty Moise did it in 1998. (Click here for sound from Stewart and Jessica)

So how different is it racing at a place like Bristol as opposed to a smaller track which usually would hold a dirt race, Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says, ”It’s kind of it’s own animal and watching the races there this week I feel like our cup cars can put on a good show and I think our fans are gonna enjoy it.”

The current regime of race stars is looking forward to it, guys like defending Cup champion Chase Eliot who says, ”I think it’s great for the sport honestly and I think and from a driver’s perspective I’m excited about this weekend. i don’t know, I think there’s more excitement in general if this was a normal Bristol spring race, the unknown probably more than anything.”

Kyle Busch adds, ”It’s gonna be a learning experience for sure, these vehicles are nothing like I’ve driven on dirt so it’s gonna be interesting.”

So what about rain and it is in the forecast for this weekend, well, think about how baseball infields are prepped. They’ll use packer cars on it first and then depending on how much moisture is in the dirt, that they may have to run the water truck and put down more moisture before its ready to race. With the layers of how they constructed it. The water should drain well off the high banks!

Rain or shine, it should make for a weekend race fans won’t soon forget says Stenhouse, ”For me you walk into Bristol whether it’s concrete or dirt the atmosphere within those walls is pretty spectacular. There’s be NASCAR fans there but also a lot of dirt fans that are gonna be tuned in and watching as well just to see what the show is gonna be like.”

Race fans can look forward to Bristol Motor Speedway’s fresh take on the virtual souvenir program with the introduction of the Virtual Fan Garage (VFG) this week in advance of the Food City Dirt Race on Sunday, Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt and Bush’s Beans Heat Qualifying for Cup and Truck on Saturday and Bush’s Beans Practice Day on Friday.

The Virtual Fan Garage, a free, interactive digital hub of engaging fan content, will provide fans at both the speedway and those tuning-in from home everything they need to know about race weekend including on-track schedules, prize giveaways, feature stories, special sponsor-created offers, driver radio frequencies, driver information, videos, driver bios and official race rosters. “The Virtual Fan Garage is the latest innovation to bring our race fans and sponsors closer together,” said Speedway Motorsports Sales Officer Kevin Camper. “Our sponsors are able to tailor a specific message to the race fans, and many will set up contests that allow them to better engage the fans and collect data at the same time.”

The innovative project allows for real-time updates, keeping fans up to speed with all the latest news and information in a mobile-friendly format. A new initiative across all Speedway Motorsports properties in 2021, BMS becomes the third track to debut its Virtual Fan Garage. The VFG can be accessed at each respective speedway’s website homepage and will be unique to each race weekend.

Click here to view the Food City Dirt Race weekend Virtual Fan Garage.

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