It was a long weekend in Bristol, TN, but Monday gave us two races and two drivers left East Tennessee happy. Martin Truex Jr., who is not considered a dirt expert, dominated the Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt earlier in the day beating out truck series regulars Ben Rhodes and Raphael Lessard.
“I wanted to run this race so I could get more experience with the Cup car, and we got out there in practice and it felt really good. And I was having a lot of fun, so I just kept trying to work with the guys and tell them what I needed. It was really amazing how much the track changed, but I will have to say the (No. 51 Tundra) stayed really, really good the whole time.”
Here are the full results of the Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt.
Now on to the main event, the cup race. There was not a lot known about how the cup cars (or drivers) would work on the dirt. The fans in attendance got one heck of show though with a lot of slipping and sliding early and then dust later on. Was it perfect? No, but it was fun. NASCAR would eventually have every re-start go single file (something common in dirt racing) after a big dust build up. Martin Truex Jr. would pick up where he left off early, winning stage 1. Things picked up in stage 2 as Daniel Suarez took the lead in his number 99 Trackhouse racing Chevy. The new team has been slow out of the gates, but looks to build off a great run.
"I want to be very honest with you, I love racing at Bristol. Is one of my favorite racetracks.
When they announced we’re going to be coming here with dirt in one of the races, I wasn’t too sure about it because I never been on dirt in my life. In Mexico, we don’t have ovals in dirt, at least as I know.
Honestly, I am just very, very proud of my team that they brought a very fast car and I was able to learn as I went.
It was a challenge. Last probably five days ago was my first time ever on a dirt car. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoy a lot. I enjoy a lot, as well, the entire weekend.
Overall I felt that we’re very close. That always bring a smile to my face. But it wasn’t close enough. So we have to keep working. Now I’m excited actually that we’re going to come back next year with another shot to race and compete for the win in Bristol on dirt."
Joey Logano would take the lead towards the end of the stage and win in stage 2. Logano wouldn't look back either, leading a total of 61 laps in route to the victory.
For Logano, it was special to run as well as they did, but also to be the first cup team to win on dirt in over 50 years.
"But to be the first team to be able to win on dirt in the Cup Series, in 50 years or so, that’s something that I’m very proud of. Very proud of this team.
This weekend coming into the week, you just don’t know, right? I said that’s the phrase of the week: I don’t know. You didn’t know what you had to work on in your car. You didn’t know how the race was going to play out, you don’t know how the track is going to change. It’s just watching and studying, getting in a dirt car for a few races in Volusia, running a heat race here a week ago. All that kind of helped out and played out for us."
Ultimately, NASCAR should be happy with the weekend. They faced a lot of unknowns and obstacles, but drivers and fans alike seemed to enjoy it.
"Steve and the boys did a great job. Obviously I watched every race last week. They did a great job with all the race cars on the racetrack, knowing they had to prep the track a little bit different for our race cars, said Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Obviously you can’t have it wet with the cars overheating and our grill screens, windshields, and things like that. They prepped the track to the best of their ability.
Obviously all the rain didn’t help. They reacted, did stuff as best they could. Came out here last night just to check out the track. Kind of talked to them about what they were going to do between the stages and the competition cautions. I think they did a great job.
May have got a little bit behind there. When we started running single file, all the dust just sat in that second lane. I was one advocating for single-file restarts. I felt like NASCAR did a great job adapting to that because, like Steve O’Donnell said, that’s things that you see in dirt racing when track conditions just change and kind of are out of your control at that point.
But I think it made the racing better, a lot better there at the end. Hats off to everybody at NASCAR and everybody on the track crew."
Steve O'Donnell, Senior VP with NASCAR echoed that sentiment:
"Yeah, certainly a wild few days here at Bristol. I think the industry had everything thrown at it. When you think of the challenge of coming into this weekend just to race on dirt, how much went into that. But then you add on the fact that we experienced flooding, hail, a day race with unbelievable sunshine, more laps with a truck and a Cup race than you’d ever put on a racetrack normally if you were conducting a dirt event.
All in all really proud of the industry for setting this up, getting the racing in for the race fans, knowing it was a challenge for our fans to stick around on Monday. An incredible crowd turned out here today. We’re really proud of that.
Certainly learned a number of things in the race and throughout the week that we can apply as we go forward in 2022. All in all I’d give it a thumbs up with some things to learn.
The fans had asked us for years to look at innovation around the schedule. 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."
Before the end of the race, Bristol Motor Speedway and NASCAR announced that next year's spring race would also be on dirt. O'Donnell said they learned a lot this weekend and look forward to growing the event.
"Too early to tell what we would do next year in terms of what that weekend could look like. We never go into something thinking this would be a one-off. Our hope was this would be a success, something we could repeat, become really a staple of the schedule going forward.
Certainly a number of things we learned throughout the weekend that will apply to 2022’s event weekend. Some of those things, how much you race in a single day, are there other racing series that can be part of this in terms of late models as well. We fully intend to be back in ’22 and beyond and continue to apply those learnings and put on some great races."
Here are the final results from the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol.
As NASCAR heads into the off weekend, here's a look at the point standings.
Ultimately, I'd call it a success. I know the weather didn't cooperate, hopefully it does next year. I think the fans got a fun show and the drivers showed just how good they really are by battling all of the unknowns. I think NASCAR has something to look forward to next year and something to build upon.