Should this past weekend at Bristol be considered a success given all that went into it and what they had to overcome with the rain? – Hazel B., Austin, Texas
Talk about a loaded question … so much to unpack with this race and so little time to do it.
First, let me lay out my thoughts on the race and weekend itself. My biggest thing as soon as this race was announced was the fact that it’s happening at Bristol Motor Speedway at the expense of a race weekend of “normal” concrete Bristol, which is annually one of the most entertaining races of the season.
I’m all for dirt races on the Cup schedule, but I’d prefer for them to be on purpose built dirt tracks (looking at you, Eldora Speedway, Knoxville Speedway and hundreds of other venues in the United States) instead of one like Bristol that is not a true dirt track.
If it was on a purpose-built venue, lots of issues that arose on Monday would likely be either eliminated altogether or mitigated significantly. Visibility (less dust), multiple grooves, rubbering, etc. I’m no dirt expert, so I’ll stop there in terms of the technicalities.
And as plenty of others have pointed out: run the race at night instead of during the day, figure out a workaround with or without windshields/velcro grilles and tires chording. There are a lot of people that get paid a lot of money to make these decisions, and I have no doubt before next year’s event these problems will be fixed.
NOW, was it a success? Subjective question, but I’d say yes. From a standpoint of generating interest outside of the NASCAR bubble, it did exactly that. I had friends and family far and wide texting me asking what the deal was with dirt, why they hadn’t run on it for 51 years and if I personally liked it. In terms of ratings, 3.114 million tuned in, which is solid but not a “blow your doors off” number.
I do have to be “that guy” and applaud NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway though. Having countless layers, thousands of truckloads of multiple kinds of dirt and sleepless nights (due to nerves and track prep, especially on the heels of the monsoon that formed a “Lake Bristol” in the parking lots of the facility) is far from easy. But the events went off without any major issues.
I don’t think NASCAR mandating single file restarts in the middle of the race falls into the category of a major issue. Visibility was bad, no doubt about it, but I also went into the event holding firm on my mindset: do NOT be upset with NASCAR for trying something, even if/when it goes awry.
“The fans had asked us for years to look at innovation around the schedule,” NASCAR Executive Senior Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said post-race. “In fact, we’ve been taken to task for not making some moves. We were bold and aggressive this year. I’m proud of the team for doing that, proud of the industry for taking a chance here. Marcus Smith, his team. What Steve Swift did for putting this track together was incredible, the amount of hours he put together. Really happy for the work he did as well.”
I’d call this race a success. And heck, so would NASCAR and Bristol, as they announced there’d be a Round 2 of this event next year before the race even finished! And they made that decision before the race was even halfway home.
Regardless of whether or not you like dirt, liked the event or not, get used to more of it. Because now that it’s worked one time, the floodgates may open for more innovation and change. That’s a good thing.
What should happen to Anthony Alfredo after two straight weeks of bonehead incidents? Ironically, they both came with Aric Almirola. How should he be handled, and would sitting him on the sidelines be an option? – Jerome P., Boise, Idaho
Not sure if I see what you’re seeing, Jerome. What I saw was Alfredo sliding past his pit box, almost into a crew member and going on his merry way at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Then, he piled into Almirola on a dirt surface nobody had run on before.
⚠️ BIG wreck. Alfredo, Almirola, Golobic and LaJoie all involved.
💭 "That guy needs to go away. He about kills our pit crew last week, guess he doesn't know where his brake pedal is." – No. 10 radio is displeased with Alfredo.
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) March 29, 2021
Chalk it up as rookie mistakes, wrong place, wrong time, a combination of the two or just inexperience. But to say that Alfredo should be removed from the car would be extremely harsh. It’s not like the guy has blatantly wrecked his competitors, injured others or done any of it with malicious intent.
There is a line between a rookie learning curve and something more problematic. I’m not sure I know what the latter is, but I do know that Alfredo hasn’t come close to that. Nothing he’s done on track is worthy of being penalized by NASCAR or internally by Front Row Motorsports. If anything, he knows what he’s doing is penalizing the No. 38 team.
— Anthony Alfredo (@anthonyalfredo) March 29, 2021
He’s replacing John Hunter Nemechek in the car, who had the highest crash rate in the NASCAR Cup Series as a rookie in 2020, according to Motorsports Analytics. Alfredo has yet to finish three of the opening seven races, including two of the last three, so he may be on his way to “defending” the No. 38 car’s No. 1 place in that category.
But make no mistake: he ain’t sitting any races and there’s nothing that needs to be “handled” with Alfredo. He’s looked every bit of a rookie so far, but there’s plenty more races to go. Patience is a virtue.