OK, let’s get this out of the way up top.
I’m not a fan of dirt racing.
There, I said it.
In my 30 years on this planet, aside from a couple events as a child I have no memory of, I have yet to attend a race that involved dirt.
That’s due more to circumstance rather than choice. Growing up in Lewisville, Texas, in the late ’90s as a NASCAR fan, the main local racing I attended (via my dad) was a drag strip. We moved to Arkansas in 2000, and for the next 13 years, which included four in Jonesboro for college, the idea of visiting a dirt track never really crossed my mind.
Through all of that, my only real exposure to dirt racing were the old crash highlight series “And They Walked Away” from Diamond P Sports.
So, what are my thoughts on the NASCAR Cup and Truck Series competing on dirt this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway?
Bring. It. On.
Seven years of Truck Series races at Eldora wetted my appetite for seeing Cup make its return to a dirt surface for the first time in 50 years. While it won’t be on a “traditional” dirt track, we’re getting it. NASCAR’s trying something!
Having a slew of Cup drivers take part in the Bristol Dirt Nationals last weekend helped stoke excitement so much, it was as if NASCAR wasn’t getting ready for its Atlanta race weekend.
As the weeks have ticked off in this season, there’s been rumblings from some who don’t believe stock cars racing on dirt at a track not specifically built for it won’t work.
Get back to me around 6 p.m. ET Sunday.
The thrill of finding out if a 250-lap dirt race (yes, that’s how long it is) will “work” is half of the excitement for me.
The other half? Seeing a field of drivers who have limited or no experience on dirt getting thrown into the deep end.
And it’s not just the drivers.
For Todd Gordon, crew chief for Ryan Blaney in the Cup Series, this weekend’s race will be “uncharted territory.”
“My preparation is ask Ryan what he and his dad (Dave Blaney) think because I’ve never raced on dirt to speak of at all,” Gordon said after Blaney’s win Sunday (March 21) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“It’s great because Dave spent a fair amount of time just talking with me, with my engineers and myself. You’re trying to understand what it will be like. Fortunately, Dave ran one of the truck races at Eldora for Brad (Keselowski)’s truck team (in 2013). He understands a little bit of taking a stock car type chassis … to a dirt track.
“Joey (Logano) ran the modified at Bristol last weekend in a sequence of stuff there. Just trying to learn from everybody we can around us.”
Blaney said everyone is going into the Bristol experiment “very optimistic.”
“From seeing videos of the late models that have been racing there here this week, yeah, the track has gotten pretty rough,” Blaney said. “Granted, we aren’t going to be going nearly that fast that those guys are going. We’ll be seconds and seconds slower than them.
“My dad actually ran the dirt race at Bristol in the early 2000s when they did it. … He did it one year. He said it was just incredible in a sprint car.
“I’m just excited to see how it all plays out.”
So is Alex Bowman, who has limited dirt experience in midgets and ARCA.
“Who knows if it’s going to be amazing, not great, what the racetrack is going to do or what’s going to happen,” Bowman said. “I think the fact that it’s new, different and exciting, is really cool to be a part of.”
And, hopefully, it will cool to watch.
After months of buildup and promotion of the “best season ever” on the the back of arguably NASCAR’s most radical schedule of the Modern Era, it finally feels like we get to tear the plastic off a new toy.
This Week in Weird
– Through six Cup races there have been six different winners. Each winning driver won their first Cup race on that specific track.
– Ryan Blaney’s win in Atlanta corresponds to some family history. Twenty years ago saw his father’s best chance to win a Cup race come at Atlanta. Dave Blaney led a career-best 70 laps before a loose left-rear tire took him out of contention with 108 laps to go.
Some kid named Kevin Harvick went on to win.
“Dad was here today in the stands,” Blaney said Sunday. “He texted me today. He said, ‘This is the 20-year anniversary.’ … I said, ‘We’ll win one for the 20th anniversary.’ I don’t know how solar cycles line up, every 20 years, I don’t know. Happy we were able to avenge that loss on him.”
Let us know what you think of “This Week in Weird.”
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About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at email@example.com.