BRISTOL, Tenn. – The bold adventure with dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway just became more muddled.
Following a day of rain capped by an intense evening shower, the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt was postponed just after 6 p.m. Saturday.
The 150-lap event has been reset for Sunday night at 9. The start time for the 250-lap Food City Dirt Race for the Cup Series remains at 3:30.
For a while Saturday, it appeared that fans would be rewarded with some action.
Thanks to track grooming efforts that began early Saturday morning, the opening round of four 15-lap heats began in the Truck series.
The unvarnished fun lasted just one lap before drivers were forced to pull into the pits due to a thick buildup of mud on their front grilles and windshields.
In hopes of smoothing out the track surface, five area dirt late model veterans turned laps around the high banks along with a number of dirt packer cars commonly used at dirt tracks. Tyler Arrington of Lebanon, Virginia, was among the dirt late model contingent.
But after another round of rain translated into more goo and slime, NASCAR officials decided to cancel the qualifying heats for both the Truck and Cup drivers. The starting field for the Truck race will be based off points, while a four-pronged statistical formula will determine the Cup lineup.
The frustration was evident among drivers following the bizarre truck series heat lap.
“That was probably the most the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in a race car,” said Kevin Harvick, who is one of seven Cup regulars entered in the Truck Race. “The conditions are really unsafe as far as vision goes.”
On Friday, Harvick expressed a much different tune after participating in the first 50-lap practice session for the trucks.
“Honestly, that’s as much fun as I’ve had in a race car in a long time,” Harvick said. “Just getting over my anxiety and being able to do something way outside my comfort zone was rewarding.”
Exploring outside the NASCAR comfort zone was a major reason why Bristol Motor Speedway officials decided to transform their iconic facility into a dirt facility. Attendance for the spring NASCAR weekends at BMS has been on a steady decline, due in part to rainy weather.
Both the Cup and Truck races at BMS attracted socially-distanced sellouts of around 30,000.
Dust and the inconsistent dirt surface were also an issue in Friday’s late practice session for the Cup series.
Even the fastest driver, Ryan Blaney, was not pleased with the track conditions.
“It’s rough and slick. Really rough, actually,” Blaney said. “The track is kind of coming up and there are crazy big divots.”
Saturday’s rain, which continued late into the night, has added another variable to the Bristol dirt challenge.
To accommodate concerns over track conditions and tire wear, NASCAR has altered the stages for the Food City Dirt Race while adding a pair of competition cautions. The first stage was increased by 25 laps, with the second stage extended by 50 laps. Teams will also be allowed an extra set of tires.
The next chapter of the Bristol dirt now centers on the weather, and the mud.
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