NASCAR Cup SeriesNASCAR Truck Series

Rain cancels Bristol dirt heats, Trucks postponed to Sunday

5 Mins read
Credit: Reaume Brothers Racing

If you have ever wondered what NASCAR would look like if it was a mud bogging discipline, the Camping World Truck Series provided a lap of that on Saturday. Rain plagued Saturday’s track activities at Bristol Motor Speedway, forcing the cancellation of the Truck and Cup Seriesheat races to set the grids for their respective points races. The former’s Pinty’s Dirt Truck Race, which was scheduled for the evening, was also postponed to Sunday night, while Cup’s Food City Dirt Race will still take place on Sunday afternoon as planned. Both races’ starting lineups are instead determined by formula as with races without qualifying, which place Kyle Larson (Cup) and John Hunter Nemechek (Truck) on the poles.

Rain and oval racing rarely, if evergo well together, but the situation is exacerbated for dirt track racing as planned for Bristol. When the weather briefly complied, NASCAR began the first of four planned Truck heat races, but it proved to be a case study in the aforementioned statement as it lasted just one lap before being halted due to mud quickly covering the grilles and windshields. Driver visibility had been raised as a concern during Friday’s practice sessions in regards to dust, but the mud was an even more dangerous coating as vision was blocked completely.

Heat #1 pole winner Mike Marlar led the lone green-flag lap, but the qualifying formula placed his starting spot for the feature in thirty-eighth. It will be Marlar’s first Truck race since his début in 2019, while his Hill Motorsports team is a small operation that sits thirty-sixth in owner points. Raphaël Lessard and Ben Rhodes, who led the two Friday practices, will respectively start twenty-ninth and ninth.

Hill Motorsports owner Timmy Hill quipped, “Welp, it was short but we led all the laps today!”

Among the dirt ringers, Cody Erickson starts thirty-fourth in his fourth Truck race (last on Bristol’s concrete layout in 2020; he also raced at Eldora in 2014 and 2015), while Jake Griffin is thirty-sixth as he makes his first start since Eldora in 2019. Starting last will be Andrew Gordon in his first NASCAR start.

Trevor Collins and Jessica Friesen, both of whom were hoping to qualify for their maiden NASCAR races, and Cup driver Ryan Newman officially failed to qualify. J.R. Heffner withdrew from the weekend after wrecking his truck in Friday’s final practice.

Of the eight remaining Cup drivers dabbling in the Trucks for more seat time (which is ironically invalidated by the postponement as the Truck race is now after the parent series’), Martin Truex Jr. is the highest starter in fifteenth in his first Truck event since 2006. Daniel Suárez is twenty-sixth in his first Truck race in five years, while Kevin Harvick is thirtieth in his return after a six-year absence. A trio of drivers who won the Truck Series’ previous dirt race at Eldora Speedway also start in the bottom half with Larson (twenty-eighth), Bubba Wallace (thirty-second), and Chase Briscoe (thirty-third). Xfinity Series driver Myatt Snider will begin his night in thirty-seventh.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

For the Cup race, Larson is officially the pole sitter but will be sent to the rear for the green flag after changing his engine during his series’ final practice. As a result, third-placed Ryan Blaney—who led said practice—will take his spot. Larson’s team-mate Alex Bowman, the fastest in the first practice, rolls off seventh.

Among drivers making their Cup débuts, Truck regular and Friesen’s husband Stewart starts thirty-second ahead of Shane Golobic (thirty-fifth), Chris Windom (thirty-sixth), and Marlar (thirty-eighth again). J.J. Yeley is thirty-fourth in his first Cup race of 2021 while Ty Dillon starts last for his and Gaunt Brothers Racing‘s return to the series after taking the last four weeks off.

The postponement sparked much conversation on social media, including whether NASCAR should have implemented more changes to the vehicles to adapt to the circumstances such as removing windshields to emulate dirt cars, moving the Bristol spring race to another date with a lower threat of rain, or criticising the dirt experiment altogether. On the other side of the debate, one can argue removing windshields for a one-off, especially with the electronics in the cockpit, would be impractical. Others have also pointed out such a situation would have occurred anyway even for races on Bristol’s concrete surface or any other dirt event. The Truck Series will run another dirt race in July at Knoxville Raceway, while Eldora was the lone national series dirt event from 2013 to 2019.

“Maybe Richard Petty was right after all,” tweeted Cup driver Denny Hamlin. The remark was alluding to Petty’s comments to Autoweek in October 2020, shortly after the Bristol dirt race was announced, about dirt racing being similar to “taking a professional football team and going back to play at a high school field.” Petty had won the Cup Series’ last dirt event in 1970, but felt returning to such tracks would be a step backwards towards their smaller roots. Nevertheless, he added that although Bristol could “be another gimmick,” there was also the possibility that it is “what NASCAR needs to keep our base growing.”

“Just an FYI, when this race happens. We aren’t going to be able to see either way,” Griffin tweeted on Saturday evening. “The track has to be dry enough to not throw up mud so the engines can stay cool. But when it gets dry the dust is so thick that if you aren’t leading you can’t see the car in front of you.”

The Food City Dirt Race will begin at 3:30 PM Eastern, followed by the Pinty’s Dirt Truck Race at 9 PM. On Saturday morning, NASCAR announced that after analysing the results of Friday’s practices, the Cup race’s first two stages would end on laps 100 and 200 instead of 75 and 150 as previously planned, while competition cautions were added on laps 50 and 150. Teams will also receive an extra set of tyres.

Cup starting lineup

15Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
211Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
312Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord
418Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
519Martin Truex Jr.Joe Gibbs RacingToyota
64Kevin HarvickStewart-Haas RacingFord
748Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
824William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
93Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
1022Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord
1117Chris BuescherRoush Fenway RacingFord
1221Matt DiBenedettoWood Brothers RacingFord
1347Ricky Stenhouse Jr.JTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
146Ryan NewmanRoush Fenway RacingFord
1520Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
1634Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord
1742Ross ChastainChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet
1899Daniel SuárezTrackhouse Racing TeamChevrolet
1923Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota
202Brad KeselowskiTeam PenskeFord
2141Cole CusterStewart-Haas RacingFord
2237Ryan PreeceJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
2310Aric AlmirolaStewart-Haas RacingFord
2443Erik JonesRichard Petty MotorsportsChevrolet
2514Chase BriscoeStewart-Haas RacingFord
269Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
278Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
281Kurt BuschChip Ganassi RacingChevrolet
2938Anthony AlfredoFront Row MotorsportsFord
307Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
3151Cody Ware*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet
3277Stewart Friesen*Spire MotorsportsChevrolet
3300Quin HouffStarCom RacingChevrolet
3453J.J. Yeley*Rick Ware RacingChevrolet
3578Shane GolobicLive Fast MotorsportsFord
3615Chris WindomRick Ware RacingChevrolet
3752Josh BilickiRick Ware RacingFord
3866Mike MarlarMBM MotorsportsToyota
3996Ty Dillon*Gaunt Brothers RacingToyota
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Cup points

Truck starting lineup

14John Hunter NemechekKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
216Austin HillHattori Racing EnterprisesToyota
32Sheldon CreedGMS RacingChevrolet
488Matt CraftonThorSport RacingToyota
513Johnny SauterThorSport RacingToyota
621Zane SmithGMS RacingChevrolet
752Stewart FriesenHalmar Friesen RacingToyota
898Grant EnfingerThorSport RacingToyota
999Ben RhodesThorSport RacingToyota
1045Brett MoffittNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
1142Carson HocevarNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
1219Derek KrausMcAnally-Hilgemann RacingToyota
1338Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord
1440Ryan TruexNiece MotorsportsChevrolet
1551Martin Truex Jr.*Kyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
1675Parker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsChevrolet
1722Austin Wayne SelfAM RacingChevrolet
1815Tanner GrayDavid Gilliland RacingFord
1926Tyler AnkrumGMS RacingChevrolet
209Codie RohrbaughCR7 MotorsportsChevrolet
2118Chandler SmithKyle Busch MotorsportsToyota
221Hailie DeeganDavid Gilliland RacingFord
2323Chase PurdyGMS RacingChevrolet
2412Tate FoglemanYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet
2530Danny BohnOn Point MotorsportsToyota
2602Daniel Suárez*Young’s MotorsportsChevrolet
2725Timothy PetersRackley WARChevrolet
2844Kyle Larson*Niece MotorsportsChevrolet
2924Raphaël LessardGMS RacingChevrolet
3017Kevin Harvick*David Gilliland RacingFord
3120Spencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsChevrolet
3211Bubba Wallace*Spencer Davis MotorsportsToyota
3304Chase Briscoe*Roper RacingFord
3441Cody EricksonCram Racing EnterprisesChevrolet
3510Jennifer Jo CobbJennifer Jo Cobb RacingChevrolet
3634Jake GriffinReaume Brothers RacingToyota
3733Myatt Snider*Reaume Brothers RacingChevrolet
3856Mike Marlar*Hill MotorsportsChevrolet
396Norm BenningNorm Benning RacingChevrolet
4049Andrew GordonCMI MotorsportsChevrolet
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for Truck points
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About author
Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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