The Best of Intentions

April 21, 2022 | Blog

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Often times, when someone sets out to do something with good intentions, the opposite usually will happen. Such is the case of the dirt experiment at Bristol Motor Speedway.

I tweeted earlier this week we needed to stop with this mess. Two years of covering what once was the best short track in NASCAR in red clay and calling it a race on dirt and having weather challenges dampen the spirit of the weekend was a enough for me. And without missing a beat, moments later the television ratings were announced for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Sunday night’s Easter showdown on the half-mile dirt oval.

The best television ratings for a Bristol Cup Series race since 2016 and the Truck race saw the best ratings in the history of the series at the track (dating back to 1995.)

For those who don’t speak NASCAR – good ratings means we’re gonna try it again next year.

I think there’s a lot of folks in the industry who have mixed feelings about that. Here’s the thing: the idea of a NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt is great. It’s the ultimate throwback race. It takes away downforce and tire wear and engineers planning out what happens on a Tuesday afternoon and actually puts the racing back in the hands of the driver, something NASCAR fans have been screaming about for years.

But the good intentions of dirt racing has been sullied in a way that bothers me.

First, the weather. Now, I learned early on in my NASCAR career that there’s one thing you have no control over and no matter how much you get upset or mad about it, there’s nothing you can do to change it. That’s the weather. But it’s frustrating that this event has been plagued by weather problems two years in a row. Knowing the history of rain in the spring at Bristol over the last decade or so, maybe we should look at moving this race later into the spring when rain doesn’t plagued eastern Tennessee as much as it does the first few weeks of April.

Second, the… controversy (?) surrounding things like windshields and grille openings leading up to the race. I use the term controversy lightly because I’m not sure it was a controversy at all, maybe just conjecture. Anyway, defending champion Kyle Larson said we shouldn’t be running windshields on these cars if we wanted to make it a true dirt race. I think it’s safe to say Mr. Larson knows a thing or two about dirt racing, and given the fact that he’s our defending champion, maybe the sanctioning body should have, I don’t know, taken his advice to heart and made the cars more “dirt ready.” The race was already getting a bad name before the haulers even left North Carolina.

Finally, scoring issues during the second stage break was a topic of conversation among broadcasters, drivers, and fans and ultimately led to mass confusion for longer than it should have because of a lack of communication and teams understanding that race leader and restart leader are two different things.

Maybe it was the fact that we had just had two duds of races at Richmond and Martinsville and I was a little burned out from single file racing the last two weeks. Whatever the case, it seems to me that NASCAR can’t let things they can control (controversy, scoring, etc.) muddy up the third Bristol dirt race next year (which is going to happen according to SMI officials who have said they’re going to mud it up again in 2023.)

I feel bad even complaining about this given the tremendous action we saw on track and the unforgettable finish that saw Kyle Busch edge Tyler Reddick after Reddick was taken out by Chase Briscoe in Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag.

NASCAR has a year (or more depending on scheduling) to figure out what to do to change my mind on this race. When it was announced more than two years ago that we were going to see a dirt Cup Series race for the first time in over half a century I was ecstatic. And while I don’t want the concept to be completely abandoned, it would be nice if things went a little more smoother next year.

And now, on to Talladega. Because nothing weird has ever happened their before.

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