NASCAR made history this Monday, March 29, 2021, since it was the first time cars have raced on dirt in over 50 years. The decision to race on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway came along with several other changes to the schedule for the 2021 season including seven road course races. Many race fans were skeptical of the schedule change, but the return to dirt track racing did not disappoint.
It was a rough weekend in Bristol because a massive rainstorm swept through the area and made it impossible for the Truck and Cup Series races to be completed on Saturday or Sunday, so the races were moved to Monday afternoon. The truck race was run first and several drivers who would race in the Cup race participated in this race to gain experience on the dirt. Many NASCAR drivers grew up racing on asphalt, so this was a brand-new experience for several drivers.
The race was 250 laps and every 50 laps, NASCAR would throw a competition caution to allow drivers to pit so the teams could service the car (change tires, add fuel, repair damage, etc) and so the track crew could add water to the track. This is completely different from a normal NASCAR race weekend because dirt tracks require maintenance throughout the race while asphalt tracks do not.
One of the turning points of the race came at lap 55 when Christopher Bell spun out and collected Kyle Larson. These two drivers were the favorites to win because each of them has a lot of dirt experience. Once these two drivers were involved in that wreck, it made the race up for grabs for anyone in the field.
Another turning point in the race came at lap 150 after one of the competition cautions. The race resumed, but the track was very dusty, which limited the driver’s vision. This led to a wreck on the restart and NASCAR made the decision to change to single-file restarts instead of side by side. NASCAR usually does not make changes like this in the middle of a race, but I believe it was the right decision because vision improved as the race continued.
A caution came out with four laps remaining which set up a green-white-checkered finish. Joey Logano was the leader and Denny Hamlin was behind him as the race resumed. Logano went to the bottom of the track in the first turn and Hamlin went to the top where he lost a lot of time to the leader. This allowed Logano to drive away and win the first NASCAR race on dirt in over 50 years.
I have to give credit to NASCAR for trying something new because many sports do not have the “guts” to add something completely different to their schedule. While there were a few concerns and issues throughout the race weekend, NASCAR did a great job adapting to certain issues to the best of their ability. Bristol Motor Speedway announced during the race that this event will happen next year, so NASCAR can look back at this race and make adjustments for next year.