The NASCAR Cup Series heads back to the Bristol dirt track as the calendar continues to throw new challenges at the drivers.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ short-track run continues this week as the drivers head to Bristol for the annual dirt race. There is a different format for this weekend given the unique track, so let’s go over how things will look as the drivers take to the track for this special event.
Things will already look different on Friday when there are two practices scheduled for the drivers. Coming into the season this was the only track set to have multiple practices before a second one was added for COTA two weeks ago. The extra practice will be crucial for the drivers and teams to get a proper feel for their cars ahead of qualifying.
As for qualifying, it will be done in four 15-lap heats. The members of each heat race will be randomly drawn on Friday. With 37 cars entered, there will be one heat with 10 cars and three heats with nine cars. Unlike the Clash, the heats will allow drivers to accumulate points that will be used to determine the starting grid for Sunday’s race. Only green flag laps count for these heats and there will be no overtime.
Drivers will earn 10 points should they win their heat, and one fewer point for each successive position (ex. nine points for second place, eight points for third place, etc.) down to 10th. Drivers will also earn one point for each position they finish higher than their starting position. So, if a driver starts in seventh and finishes third, they’ll earn four additional points for passing four cars. Points will not be deducted for those who lose spots or maintain their starting position.
For Sunday’s race, there will be no live pit stops. Drivers will come into the pits at the Stage breaks and leave in the same order they arrived. However, if someone decides not to pit and stays out, they will move to the front of the field.
It’s a different look this weekend but it should produce a lot of fun on-track action. Let’s see if some regular dirt track wizards can remain dominant or if we get a big surprise with the special track this weekend.
We're taking this to the dirt. 🤘 pic.twitter.com/nUU6SS8brx
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 5, 2023
While Bristol Motor Speedway has been featured on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule since 1961, the dirt track version is only entering its third year. There have been two previous dirt races at Bristol, with Joey Logano and Kyle Busch taking the victories. Both of those drivers are in the top five in terms of average finish for the previous two races, with Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, and Daniel Suarez the others on that list.
The track is 0.533 miles long and is dubbed the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” On the dirt layout, the turns have variable banking from 22-24 degrees while the straights sit at nine-degree banking. Sunday’s race will be 250 laps long and cover 125.5 miles. Stage 1 will be the first 75 laps while Stage 2 will be the next 75 laps. Stage 3 will cover the final 100 laps of the race.
Here’s where things stand after Richmond. Hendrick remains a mainstay near the top after their points reinstatement last week.
- Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports – 263 points
- Ross Chastain, Trackhouse Racing – 259 points
- Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing – 229 points
- William Byron*, Hendrick Motorsports – 228 points
- Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing – 227 points
- Kyle Larson*, Hendrick Motorsports – 222 points
- Joey Logano*, Team Penske – 222 points
- Kyle Busch*, Richard Childress Racing – 215 points
- Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing – 198 points
- Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing – 196 points
* = 2023 race winner
With a race that requires a more specific skill set like we’ll see this weekend, I don’t want to go too far off the beaten path with my pick. Along those lines, I’m taking Tyler Reddick this weekend. He led 99 laps last year and finished as the runner-up to Kyle Busch after winning his qualifying heat race. He knows how to conquer the dirt and I think he’ll grab another win this weekend.
- Tyler Reddick, 23XI Racing
- Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports
- Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing
- William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports
- Joey Logano, Team Penske
How To Watch: NASCAR at Bristol Dirt (All Times EST)
- First Practice: Friday, April 7 – 6:35 p.m. – FS1
- Final Practice: Friday, April 7 – 8:32 p.m. – FS1
- Qualifying heats: Saturday, April 8 – 6:00 p.m. – FS2
- Food City Dirt Race: Sunday, April 9 – 7:00 p.m. – FOX