Not since the checkered flag flew on NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty for winning the race on September 30, 1970 at North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina has the NASCAR Cup Series competed on a dirt track. Now more than 50 years later, the series is getting back to its roots in this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as more than 20,000 cubic yards of dirt were hauled in to create the temporary dirt track surface.
Next Race: Food City Dirt Race
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt
The Date: Sunday, March 28
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 125 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)
The NASCAR Cup Series has had a long legacy of racing at dirt tracks prior to the Modern Era (1972-Present), from 1949 to 1970 the series competed in 501 races on dirt. The very first NASCAR Cup Series points-paying sanctioned race in the inaugural season of 1949 was on dirt at Charlotte (Old) Speedway, a 0.75-mile track in Charlotte, North Carolina and the event was won by Jim Roper driving a Lincoln.
|Top 10 Cup Winners On Dirt|
|Rank||Cup Dirt Winners||Wins|
In total, the 501 dirt Cup races have produced 76 different winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty leads the series in dirt track wins with 46 victories; followed by Buck Baker with 42 and Herb Thomas with 41.
This week the competitors will be tasked with wrangling a Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track that has been measured to exactly 0.5-mile, and this weekend’s event will be 125 miles (250 laps) in length. The race will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 75 laps each and the final stage is 100 laps.
Plus, NASCAR has instituted a special format for Busch Pole Qualifying that includes qualifying races, very similar to what the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series did at Eldora Speedway, to decide the starting lineup. The lineups for the qualifying races will be done by random draw on Thursday, March 25 at 4 p.m. ET. There are four qualifying races scheduled with 39 entrants competing. The first three qualifying races will have 10 drivers each and the fourth qualifying race will have nine drivers entered.
Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt – Qualifying & Race Formats
This weekend’s racing will have special formats for both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. Below are details on the 2021 Bristol qualifying and race formats:
- Heat Race Starting Lineup – Random draw determines heat race designation and starting position for the heat race. The draw will be in order of current owner points.
- Qualifying Heat Races – Four qualifying races held at 15 laps each with only green flag laps counted – no overtime rule. Free pass and wave around procedures will be in effect.
- Passing Points – Drivers will accumulate points in the heat races based on finishing position and passing points. The points total determines the starting position for the feature event.
o Passing Points = The difference between assigned starting position and finishing position
- Go forward – accumulate passing points
- Go backward or finish where you started – zero passing points
- Tiebreaker – Owner Points
- Feature – Lineup based on combined points of Heat Race finishing position and passing points. Feature race will be 250 laps (NCWTS: 150 laps) divided into three stages (NCS: 75/150/250) / (NCWTS: 40/90/150). Running order will be frozen at the conclusion of each stage. During the stage breaks, teams can change tires, add fuel and make adjustments to their cars/trucks. These non-competitive pit stops must be completed in a time designated by NASCAR (TBD). No fuel or tires except at stage breaks. (Note: Teams will not be required to pit during the stage breaks. Teams that elect not to pit will re-start ahead of teams that pitted. Re-start order determined by the freeze at the conclusion of the preceding stage)
- Additional Event Highlights – Choose rule will not be in effect for the Bristol Dirt race. The overtime rules, free pass and wave around procedures will be in effect.
Streak Continues: Six different winners in the first six Cup races
Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson dominated Atlanta Motor Speedway last weekend and looked to be ending the NASCAR Cup Series different winners streak that has been running through the first five races of the 2021 season. But in the closing laps of the Atlanta race, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney passed Larson to keep the streak alive making the 2021 season the eighth different year to start with six different drivers in Victory Lane; joining 2014, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1991, 1986, 1984. Now the NASCAR Cup Series is heading to the wildcard of wildcards, the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track to see if the streak can make it to seven different winners. Only four seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) have started with seven different winners: 2014, 2003, 2000 and 1991.
The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the streak winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).
|2000||1||Dale Jarrett||Daytona||Sunday, February 20, 2000|
|2000||2||Bobby Labonte||Rockingham||Sunday, February 27, 2000|
|2000||3||Jeff Burton||Las Vegas||Sunday, March 5, 2000|
|2000||4||Dale Earnhardt||Atlanta||Sunday, March 12, 2000|
|2000||5||Ward Burton||Darlington||Sunday, March 19, 2000|
|2000||6||Rusty Wallace||Bristol||Sunday, March 26, 2000|
|2000||7||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Texas||Sunday, April 2, 2000|
|2000||8||Mark Martin||Martinsville||Sunday, April 9, 2000|
|2000||9||Jeff Gordon||Talladega||Sunday, April 16, 2000|
|2000||10||Jeremy Mayfield||Auto Club||Sunday, April 30, 2000|
In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011. Last season the series produced 13 different winners.
Cup drivers who have delved into the dirt before
When you start to think about drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series that have cut their teeth on the dirt tracks across this country, a few names like Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe jump to the forefront, but what might be surprising is several drivers have dabbled in dirt over the years and this weekend could be the opportunity they were looking for to showcase their skills and get to Victory Lane.
Six of the seven winners from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Eldora Speedway are entered this weekend – Austin Dillon (2013), Bubba Wallace (2014), Christopher Bell (2015), Kyle Larson (2016), Chase Briscoe (2018) and making his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend, Stewart Friesen (2019). Matt Crafton won the Eldora race in 2017 but is not entered in the Cup race on Sunday.
In total, 17 drivers entered in this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track have competed on the dirt at Eldora Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from 2013-2019.
|Cup Drivers Average Finish at Eldora Speedway|
|Rank||Active Drivers||Avg. Finish||Starts|
One driver that shined every time he got behind the wheel on dirt at Eldora was Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe. Not only does the 2021 Sunoco rookie candidate have a win at the track (2018), but he also leads all the active Cup drivers with previous starts at Eldora in average finish with a 3.667 in three starts.
Dirt racing is in Chase Briscoe’s blood. His grandfather, Richard Briscoe, was a sprint car owner, builder and crew chief who fielded cars for legendary drivers such as Chuck Amati, Dave Blaney (the Buckeye Bullet), Dick Gaines, Jack Hewitt, Steve Kinser and Rich Vogler. Plus, Briscoe’s father, Kevin Briscoe, raced sprint cars for more than 20 years and won more than 150 feature events. He claimed track championships at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana, and Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway five times, including one streak of three consecutive.
Briscoe began racing sprint cars full-time in 2008, and he won the final race of the season at Paragon Speedway, his first win in a 410-sprint car. The victory was record breaking, at 13 years old, Briscoe became the youngest driver to win in a 410-sprint car, supplanting the previous record holder NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (Gordon was 14). From there, Briscoe moved on to wing and non-winged mini sprint divisions in 2016 and won at the Tulsa Shootout in both. Since 2015, he has regularly competed at the Chili Bowl Nationals.
Some other new faces to keep an eye on this weekend are Spire Motorsport’s Stewart Friesen, Rick Ware Racing’s Chris Windom and Live Fast Motorsport’s Shane Golobic, all of which mastered their driving talents on dirt.
Stewart Friesen will be piloting the No. 77 Spore Motorsports Chevrolet in his series debut this weekend. Friesen is the most recent winner at Eldora in the Camping World Truck Series (2019). Friesen, a native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, is a decorated stand out of Dirt Modifieds and Sprint Cars with over 330 victories in his dirt racing career stretching back to 1999. Friesen won the Short Track Super Series North and South Championships in 2020.
Shane Golobic, a Fremont, California native, is an accomplished winged/non-winged sprint car and midget racer. Golobic, 25, is a talented young driver with ability to adapt to various racing surfaces and cars. He has made three ARCA Menards Series West starts posting two top-10 finishes. Golobic is also a World of Outlaw Feature winner, USAC National Midget Feature Winner, 2016 Trophy Cup Champion, 2014 Civil War Series Champion, 2012 and 2014 Ocean Speedway Champion, 2009 Calistoga Speedway Champion and has claimed over 45 career feature wins. Golobic will pilot the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford this weekend.
Chris Windom, a Canton, Illinois native, was the seventh driver to complete a United States Auto Club (USAC) Triple Crown by winning titles in sprint cars, midget cars, and Silver Crown.
Windom won the 2017 USAC National Sprint Car Championship, the 2016 USAC Silver Crown Championship, and the 2020 National Midget Car championship. He is also a two-time Indiana Sprint Week (2011, 2018) & Eastern Storm (2017, 2018) champion, and a two-time winner of the Little 500 (2011, 2015). Windom has also made seven career starts in the ARCA Menards Series between 2011-2015 posting two top fives and five top 10s. He has also made five career starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series including two starts at Eldora Speedway where he posted a best finish of 14th.
Larson’s Luck: Last week was a heart breaker, this week could be a soul shaker
Last Sunday, Kyle Larson suffered a heartbreaking runner-up finish to Ryan Blaney at Atlanta Motor Speedway after dominating the event and winning the first two stages. It was the fourth time in Larson’s career he had won the first two stages of a race but didn’t bring home the checkered flag. Now the 28-year-old is looking to build on the early season strength and win the first Cup Series race on dirt in more than 50 years. A lot of drivers have raced on dirt before making their way to the NASCAR Cup Series, but none have come with such prestige, built on the success from dirt racing, as Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson.
The Elk Grove, Calif. native, has built an extensive and impressive racing resume with more than 250 career race wins. In fact, he has won in every racing series he’s competed in (NASCAR Cup, NASCAR Xfinity, NASCAR Camping World Truck, K&N East/West, ARCA, Sprint Car, Midget, Silver Crown, Late Model and IMSA). Most notably, Larson has earned seven victories in the NASCAR Cup Series and won the prestigious Chili Bowl Midget Nationals twice in 2020 and 2021, the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2019, and the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2015. He also won the 2011 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway, winning in all three types of USAC cars in a single night, only the second driver in history to accomplish the feat. But Larson’s legend doesn’t end there, in 2020, he turned in one of the most impressive years in the history of dirt-track racing. While primarily driving sprint cars, he racked up an incredible 46 victories in 97 attempts. Larson led the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in victories with 12 despite competing in only 26 of its 54 events and he secured his first Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series win.
Larson has also competed in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Eldora Speedway posting a win in 2016 and an average finish of 9.67.
Denny Hamlin’s consistent pace has him out front
Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver Denny Hamlin has set sail on the competition in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings. The Chesterfield, Virginia native, is currently leading the series driver standings by 43 points over second place Kyle Larson after he posted his fifth top-five finish in the first six races of the year.
Though Hamlin has yet to visit Victory Lane this season, he has been super consistent and leads the series in top fives (five) and is tied for the series-most top10s (five) with Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.
This will be Hamlin’s first time competing on a dirt track in a NASCAR national series event but has found success on the paved Bristol track posting two wins (2012, 2019).
Ryan Blaney quickly adds his name to the Playoffs & All-Star lists
For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career at Team Penske, Ryan Blaney is the first of the three Penske drivers to get a win during a season and in the process has locked himself into the Playoffs and the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 13.
Prior to this season’s win coming in just the sixth race of the year, the earliest in a season he has won was the 13th race of last season at Talladega Superspeedway. Plus, his win last week at Atlanta, marks the fifth consecutive season for the High Point, North Carolina native to win in the NASCAR Cup Series (2017-2021).
Now Blaney is ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings 83 points behind Denny Hamlin in the series standings lead.
Looking ahead to this weekend on dirt, Blaney’s father, Dave Blaney, is a successful dirt racer earning the name the ‘Buckeye Bullet’. Ryan Blaney is one of 17 drivers that competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora. He made two starts posting an average finish of 9.0.
Stewart Friesen to race #77 Spire Motorsports car in Cup career debut at Bristol Dirt
Spire Motorsports announced last week that Stewart Friesen will drive the No. 77 car on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 28, with Halmar International as the primary partner. The car will be adorned in Friesen’s traditional Halmar colors and will be prepared for competition by Spire and led by Crew Chief Kevin Bellicourt.
Friesen will have a full schedule on the Bristol dirt this Spring. In addition to the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race on March 28, Friesen will also be competing in the NASCAR Camping World Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt on March 27, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Bristol Bash on April 9 and 10, and the Super Dirt Car Series Big Block Modifieds on April 23 and 24.
Friesen, who has over 330 career wins in dirt modified racing, won the last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced on dirt at Eldora Speedway in 2019.
“It’s a dream come true to compete in the Cup Series,” said Friesen. “It’s the pinnacle of motorsports in North America. As a race fan myself, it has always been something I’ve dreamed about doing.”
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
Rising Country Star Larry Fleet to perform prior to the Food City Dirt Race – Praised by CMT as “a rising country artist with a rich, bluesy voice,” Larry Fleet has struck a major chord with fans and this weekend he will perform the pre-race concert at Bristol Motor Speedway prior to the start of the historic Food City Dirt Race.
The one-time construction worker who was discovered by fellow Country artist Jake Owen in 2017 while playing a friend’s backyard party, Fleet will take the stage at the Sugarlands Roof at Turn 4 in the track’s infield at approximately 2:30 p.m., safely distanced away from fans and participants.
Fleet’s first single, “Where I Find God” recently hit the airwaves to critical acclaim and follows the success of his first album, “Workin’ Hard,” which was released in November 2019 on Big Loud Records. His performance at BMS will be his first ever at a NASCAR event.
“I’ve always been a massive fan of Bristol and it’s been on my bucket list to go,” Fleet said. “Playing the pre-race show my first time being at the track makes it that much sweeter and it’s something I’ll always remember.”
Cup Stars In The Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals – Headlined by the powerful dirt Super Late Models, the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals, March 15-20, provided fans with a first look at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track, which features 19-degrees of banking in the corners and a 50-foot wide racing surface. NASCAR Cup Series stars Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Core LaJoie are among the drivers who entered the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals in one of the eight classes of competition. The NASCAR drivers used the event to prepare for this weekend’s historic Food City Dirt Race.
“Having the opportunity to showcase some amazing dirt track racing during our 60th anniversary really is very special, given the overall roots of racing and the history that dirt has here at The Last Great Colosseum,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway.
Doubling The Duty On Dirt – Seven different NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be attempting to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race this weekend at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track – Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, Bubba Wallace, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. are all entered in the event.
Milestone To Watch For: Truex, Busch are racing to 10,000 laps led – Two drivers are looking to become the 19th and 20th different drivers all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series to lead 10,000 laps in their career. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. currently has 9,963 laps led, just 37 laps shy of reaching the 10,000-lap led goal. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch is not far behind Truex with 9,905 laps led, 95 laps shy of 10,000.