Racin’ With Jason: Mixed reviews for dirt race

  • Driver Joey Logano (22) leads Denny Hamlin (11) through Turn 4 during an NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Monday, March 29, 2021, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) Wade Payne

Published: 4/1/2021 6:18:22 PM

The dust has settled over Bristol Motor Speedway, and Joey Logano emerged victorious in the NASCAR Cup Series’ first race on dirt since 1970.

Reviews about the experience are mixed, though leaning toward positive. NASCAR was hampered by rain last Saturday and Sunday, which caused the Truck Series and Cup events to be pushed back to Monday.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. spent around $2 million to transform Bristol from paved paradise to clay playground. SMI and NASCAR must have liked what they saw, because a race for next season was announced while Monday’s race was still going on.

Logano winning was a bit of a surprise. He hadn’t raced on dirt since he was a kid, so he wasn’t on the list of prerace contenders. That may have been a mistake, as Logano is one of NASCAR’s best no matter where the series goes. He did benefit from early crashes by favorites Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.

Another driver with experience on dirt, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., carved his way through the field to finish second, but he couldn’t catch up to Logano, who led the final 61 laps.

After the race, media pundits took to the internet to discuss what went right and wrong. The most glaring issue was the weight of the cars and their effect on the track. Potholes and divots were made, making for a much rougher surface on the Bristol dirt. Running the race during the day made it harder for both drivers and fans to see with already poor late afternoon visibility being hampered by clouds of dust. Running the race at night — and in the summer — would lessen the threats of the track drying out in the sun as well as poor weather.

A big wild card for next year is the Next Gen car, which has attributes that aren’t necessarily made for dirt. Matt Weaver of Autoweek surmises that teams should hang onto some of their current Gen 6 chassis for use on dirt next year.

But you can’t speculate on what comes next until you do what comes first. With that out of the way, everyone involved will have an easier time next year. The drivers can’t play the inexperience card either.

The Cup Series is off this weekend for Easter and returns next week under the lights at Martinsville. I will have more from the half-mile Virginia paper clip, especially a preview of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, in next week’s column.

Jason Remillard is a copy editor and page designer at the Recorder. He can be reached at jremillard@recorder.com and followed on Twitter @racinwithjason.

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