It still would have been a NASCAR short track showdown without tons of clay dirt dragged in and dumped on the oval at the bottom of a grandstand bowl. The dirt added dust, hampered visibility, restricted high line racing and above all of that… Well… It made for a good show.

Racing started on dirt and NASCAR brought it back with the Food City Dirt Race. The trucks had opened the door with races at Eldora and someone thought dragging truckloads of dirt into the Bristol stadium would be a fun thing. Pandemic and crowd limitations and whatever the case, NASCAR and the folks at Bristol cooked up a plan for something outside of the box.

Racing on dirt in the great stadium… As gimmicks go, it was a pretty good one. The ruts and the bumps and the loose upper groove and chunks breaking loose and the slipping and the sliding put drivers on a surface like no other. Dirt tracks don’t really have concrete or asphalt just inches below the surface. Dirt tracks are built on more dirt…

The Bristol Dirt Race was a “Frankenstein’s Monster” of surfaces built in reverse. Throw dirt on the manufactured road surface and cut loose a lot of heavy NASCAR race cars and see how things shake up.

Beyond all else, the rain came and came and came again. The wet made a mud that stuck like glue to grills and windshields and completely bogged the schedule to run on Monday, March 29. The combined schedule of Camping World Trucks and NASCAR Cup put a burn on the dirt that was already mucked from rain. Despite the rain and schedule, the races ran and the track held… sort of…

Martin Truex Jr. was the force to reckon with in the truck race and went on for the win. The Cup race ran later that afternoon.

It shook up. Crashes, spins, visibility, tires and overheating hit many drivers through dusty laps filling the air with the track they were racing on. A late race spin put it all on overtime.

Denny Hamlin started in the second spot outside of Joey Logano. Hamlin made the gamble of going high but the loose dirt in the outside put him quickly in the wall leaving a mostly clear path for Logano to run the checkers on the dirt race at Bristol.

Joey Logano has the distinction of winning on the first Cup run back on dirt since the earliest days. The experiment of the Bristol Food City Dirt Race will see more laps as the schedule for 2022 has it on the books to return. They will review the process and make the track better, as far as the planning goes…

For now… It’s Joey Logano for the win at the Bristol Dirt Race.

Five races in… Five winners…

Martin Truex Jr. made his first mark for 2021 by winning the Instacart 500 at Phoenix. Joey Logano had the edge on the last restart with 29 laps remaining but Truex got around on the outside and led to the finish. Logano seemed to have the car to win with leading laps and a stage 2 checker but the #19 Bass Pro Shop team managed to set up Truex for the final run.

Atlanta is up next as NASCAR rolls back to the eastern tracks. Bristol follows with a much anticipated dirt race. The technical aspect of dumping all of that dirt on top of the pavement is astounding. Now they will run 500 laps on it… There is a race test on the surface with a late model event, with the “Bristol Dirt Nationals” set for the weekend of March 19-20. That should give an indication how the track holds up in race conditions.

For Atlanta, it’s just the pavement with points race number 6. Racing with covid conditions is still on with no practice or qualifying. It makes for interesting racing as teams use the opening laps for feedback on changes in the cars. This also seems to be making the drivers work a little more which, in turn, is puttng a bit of an edge on the racing on the track.

Will we get a sixth winner in Atlanta…? Chances are good. There are too many drivers in the “expected to win” bunch that haven’t scored yet. The season really is just off the blocks but with names like McDowell and Bell getting early wins the points are turning into a “who’s next” instead of a “who’s who”.

Martinsville race week for the 2014 Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 has been one for many to remember for a very long time. There will be discussions and “I was there!” bragging rights over Dale Jr.’s win for quite a while. His drive to victory was a thing to see and generates yet another chapter for the historic little track in Martinsville.
Even more so when you consider all of the little bits that add the frosting to the victory cake. Dale Jr. grew up in the shadow of Martinsville grandfather clocks as his iconic father won there several times. He earned his first win of the CHASE playoffs after being eliminated from championship contention just one week before. He is a spokesman for Goody’s. He drives for Rick Hendrick which also owns the #24 car of Jeff Gordon, a main rival to his father. Hendrick suffered a deep loss of family and friends from an aircraft crash at Martinsville and a team victory helps ease the pain of returning. Dale Jr. lost his father at a race track. The little bits of history that create the foundations to generate more history are abundant.
Yet Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earning his first win at the little historic track is just another piece of the timeline for the smallest track in the CHASE.
The folks at Martinsville Speedway have never let the words “little” or “small” get in their way as they consistently weave big things into their racing events. The history of racing there and the grandstand view from practically every seat to see practically everything happen makes this place a favored fan destination. It is also a perfect setting to get fans involved in ways that larger facilities just can not do in the same way.
The October race put much of this in motion. Breast Cancer Awareness month was highlighted at every turn with the race curbing painted pink. The Chevrolet pace cars were pink. As part of this, Chevrolet partnered with the speedway and brought cancer survivors into the race experience with a special ride-along on the track following the VA Lottery Pole Day.


Race drivers Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex, Jr. and Ron Hornaday drove the pink Chevy pace cars and a Chevy pace truck with these special passengers hanging on for the ride. Surviving through the fight with cancer was certainly more difficult than taking turns at a race track with a NASCAR star but the smiles on their faces seemed to indicate this was much more fun.
The simple matter of size makes it much easier for fans to see on-track activity such as driver introductions, interviews and Grand Marshall Richard Petty. The compressed real estate of the track also contributed as it took little time away from tight schedules to help bring one young fan into the mix with driver Clint Bowyer.
At a pre-event sponsor dinner in Roanoke, VA a couple of weeks before the race, Bowyer happened to meet this young fan. Bowyer is a fun fellow. He doesn’t wear the NASCAR fame as an unapproachable shield. He jokes, he laughs, he smiles…  He jumps into the fan experience and has fun with it. It was evident on race day as he paused even moments before the race to pose with fans next to the #15 AAA Toyota. It was evident as he slid into the restaurant booth weeks before and just started having a one-on-one with this young man as if they had been friends that just happened to meet while being out.
The result was a coordination with speedway staff to get the boy and his family into the infield on race weekend, have a tour with Clint Bowyer that involved the #15 hauler, the garage and a sit down in the race car. It is a memory sure to linger well beyond the checkered flag.

Bowyer later challenged for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, led several laps and finished in the top 10 at 7th place. It is very likely there was a young fan in the stands with an autographed #15 hat cheering him on.
These are small pieces of what makes Martinsville Speedway special for so many people. The views, the people, the memories…  It is the small track with big things woven into the fabric of its history for so many. It is why racing here is a highlight for drivers and fans.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., some very special survivors and a young race fan have their memories. 95,000 fans on that race day have their own stories to share about “being there when Dale Jr. won” and the folks at Martinsville Speedway are cleaning up and starting the cycle all over again for racing in 2015.

To see more fan memories and even post your own check this Facebook post from Martinsville Speedway!
Go get some memories and go racing!

There was tension at Richmond leading into racing. The pre-race was fine and the drivers were fine with the usual chatter and smiles before the engines started but the tension was there. Ten drivers were still playing the field and the math to be on the CHASE stage following the Federated Auto Parts 400.

One of them was starting on the pole. Jeff Gordon needed a good run to pop the bubble.

Racing at Richmond generally has some bobbles. Touches and spins which usually puts some kinks on the sheet metal is normal. This race wasn’t so normal. It was almost more of a dance than a race. Light on cautions and a bit heavy on leads…

Until the last 10 laps. Questions are all over the board focusing on the exit of turn 4 onto the front stretch. Clint Bowyer, running a wheel on the outside of Dale, Jr., seemed to just lose it and went sideways sliding down onto the apron. The #88 made it by but left its driver a little confused.

“It was the craziest thing I ever saw.  He just spun right out.” said Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Ryan Newman was leading and was just a few laps away from potential victory and a CHASE spot when Bowyer’s #15 went for a slide. Pit road change ups rattled the lineup leaving Newman back slightly with not enough race to make it back. (more…)