The dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway is about ‘reinventing’ the iconic race track
NASCAR just shook up the racing world with their 2021 schedule. The bold new direction features the most new tracks since 1969.
Highlighting the new NASCAR schedule is the first dirt race in 50 years. The last NASCAR Cup Series race on a dirt track was won by Richard Petty.
Bristol Motor Speedway will drop dirt on top of their concrete oval for the first time since 2001. It’s a bold idea that has the racing community buzzing.
“I’ve seen some comments about Bristol, ‘Oh my god! What are you doing?’ I think those same people might say the same thing about the college football game, where there was 110,000 people and it was an absolutely unbelievable event,” Steve O’Donnell told media in a press conference.
“Marcus Smith approached us about the idea. I think everybody loves short track racing. But, if you look at where we’ve been, as far as a capacity standpoint for that event. The track wanted to look at reinventing.”
Not long ago, Bristol Motor Speedway had a waiting list for tickets. The night race at Bristol was the hardest NASCAR ticket to get. It was so sought after that the track ran out of room to build new seats around the small 0.533-mile oval. In recent years, the track was repaved and the grandstands have become more and more vacant ever since.
“We talked to our television partners about that. It was the number one thing they wanted to see, ‘Can we make that happen?’ So, we all got together, we worked with the race teams.”
“A lot of work still to go into this. As far as, what will the package look like? What the format will look like.”
“I can tell you it was important for us to give this a try. SMI has a history of doing things bigger and bolder. We feel like we’re going to be able to pull this off and it’s going to be exciting for the fans.”
Bristol Motor Speedway comments on the dirt race
“As everyone knows, Bristol Motor Speedway is the home to big events and we feel like this will be one of the most anticipated races in the NASCAR Cup Series in quite some time,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway.
“We have proven in the past that we know how to transform Bristol Motor Speedway into one of the most pristine dirt facilities anywhere around, so we can’t wait to see how the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series will perform on the high banks at the World’s Fastest dirt Half-Mile.”
NASCAR on the Bristol dirt format
A dirt racing format at your local scene or the national Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series scene is far different than stock car racing. The need for track prep plays a big role in that. 300 consecutive laps around a dirt track would create a rubbered down, single lane dust bowl.
So, how do you still run a multi-hour show but allow for breaks to move in track equipment. Qualifying, heat races, b-main, and then track prep ahead of the main event is the typical format for a large-scale dirt event.
“We’ll sit down with the teams and talk about what would be the best format. What will have the most excitement and still showcase every one of our race teams,” Steve O’Donnell said.
“We’ve got some drivers that have a lot of experience on dirt and are going to be pretty vocal about what we need to do. We’ve got others that are new to it and are going to dip their toe in the water.”
“We’ll get everybody in the room and we’ll beat it up, like we did the stages. Hopefully, we’ll come out with something that the fans are really happy with. Especially dirt fans, something they’re used to seeing as well.”
NASCAR on the 2021 schedule mix
“We’re on the journey to a balance. In 2022 and beyond, we talked about California and the potential there. I think now, it’s 13 or so intermediate tracks, we’re up to 6 road courses and there’s some short tracks in there,” Steve O’Donnell stated.
“I saw some chatter, ‘Is NASCAR just going to become a road course circuit?’ No, I’d say we’re really happy with the number we’re at now.”
“The focus will be on that balance between superspeedways, road courses, intermediate and short tracks. If we can have that somewhat balanced, across the board, we’ll be really happy with the schedule. We already are.”
“We think it’s the most challenging, in terms of race tracks and iconic venues, that we’ve ever had. We’re going to continue to build on that.”