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Time to Park It: Food City Dirt Race

No one had any idea what to expect on the dirt. Now, we have no idea what to expect on the dirt next season.

It took over 24 hours to soak in what took place on Monday afternoon, because at the time we didn’t know if what was happening would be a one-and-done, and just left to wonder.  No one had any idea what could, or would, happen at a race that had not been seen by anyone in this generation, especially even by all the drivers in the field.

Add in all the setbacks the entire NASCAR community had to deal with leading up to this event, and it is an absolute miracle that racing even took place.

I certainly was skeptical because of the conditions that Bristol had experienced from Saturday all through Sunday.  I have seen a lot of water hit a venue before a show takes place, including flooding potential, and a tornado (reference to a Horsepower Rewind piece from last season).  Trying to dry a concrete track after all that rain likely would not be so bad, since it’s jet driers and the Air Titans doing their usual job.  At a road course, unless the rain was causing safety concerns, it would be just mount the rain tires and go for it.

But trying to dry a dirt track isn’t exactly just drying the surface, because as the truck heat proved, just because the surface might be dry doesn’t mean the track is ready.

All the rain that hit the track area just meant having to let the rain stop, and allow the clay to soak in as much water as it could before the crews could begin working in the surface.  Being able to make it race-ready in less than 24 hours for a Monday event was an undertaking.

Not perfect, but not expected to be.  NASCAR made it work on the Bristol dirt.
Not perfect, but not expected to be. NASCAR made it work on the Bristol dirt.

Bristol’s dirt crew had it ready in the early-morning, and it showed the work they did was superb.

Teams adapted, learned on the fly, and realized that this was suddenly something they had to get good at rather quickly.  Somehow, these drivers actually took to the dirt, dealt with all the dust, and the changing conditions, and made it work.

By no means was this an absolutely perfect race, especially since we saw a six-pack of 50-lap features due to the tire wear.  This means that Goodyear is going to be working on a tire for next season in the NextGen car.  With the wider tire imprint, and bigger rim, the tires used for this race simply became obsolete the moment the checkered flag waved.  However, it does mean that Goodyear certainly is capable of making a tire for the new car that is capable of running on the dirt.

NASCAR had to learn on the fly as well, as the move to single-file restarts proved.  It got so dusty, even just viewing on television, that the move was inevitable.  At the same time, it is an ode to true dirt track racing as the only double-file start is the initial green flag, as the track has moisture in it, and can handle the beginning run.  The difference between this race and what one would see at their local track is if a wreck happens before the first lap is done, they would reset for a double-file start as no laps were ran.  Although, that said, NASCAR could do the same thing since under normal circumstances the track would already be groomed and would not have taken on a groove.

NASCAR now has 363 days to figure out what they need to do different for the 2022 edition of the Bristol Dirt Race.  The announcement that it would return I think showed that before the final flag waved, fans and teams felt this was something that couldn’t be just a one-off event.

The sanctioning body has been scrutinized for not trying things, and being stagnant in the schedule.  The Roval was the first big change, and then adding four more road courses certainly made us all stand at attention.  But, this race now is the one that became the one to remember.

No one knew what to expect, and certainly no one expected those with the most dirt experience to ultimately struggle, and not be a factor.

The guys that were a factor, no dirt experience, most had no wins on the season, and the only prep they had was the practices on Friday along with the iRacing event days earlier.  But, when things came down to the final restart, the same rule on asphalt ultimately applied to the dirt.  That is what allowed Joey Logano to get enough of a lead that it gave him the most unexpected victory.

Now, the work begins on what to do for next year’s dirt race.  There is always room for improvement, and NASCAR intends on making the second go at the dirt even more memorable.

Now, let’s park it for a couple weeks, since it is going to take that long to wash off all the dust and grime that came from all the action.  Although if you’re Erik Jones, that’s easy considering his sponsor.  After all, his race BEGAN with a suit that was bleach white and bright.  It ended covered in grime, ready for Tide to do it’s duty.

About Dustin Parks

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