Bristol should continue as a dirt track beyond 2023 unless …

The half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway covered in dirt

I’ll admit it. I got spoiled over the last couple of years getting to watch the biggest stars in Dirt Late Model and Sprint Car racing do battle on the high banks of the Bristol Motor Speedway. Big purses and the lure of one of the most iconic venues in all of motorsports was hard to resist for competitors which made covering those races a thrill.

However, the usage of the legendary track during the time it has been covered in clay was greatly reduced this time around. A pair of events featuring the American All-Stars Pro Late Model Series and the Steel Block Bandits Dirt Late Model Series were the only true dirt racing offerings this spring.

Costs are high for dirt racing regulars to compete on a track of that size and banking. When asked what had to be changed on his car prior to last Saturday’s Bristol Dirt Showcase, driver Ryan King offered the simple answer of “everything”.

But the reality is that the Bristol Motor Speedway hasn’t been covered in dirt during each of the past three years for the primary purpose of racing Dirt Late Models and Sprint Cars. The NASCAR Cup Series is meant to be the main attraction.

It seems as if each year since the first time in the spring of 2021 the question of whether or not dirt racing at BMS will continue is asked. Obviously, the answer to that will be decided on the offices of NASCAR and track owner Speedway Motorsports. The main course meant to be served on the famed half-mile is NASCAR. Anything else is a side item on the menu. is the sister site to which is where co-owner Michael Moats and I actually do most of our racing coverage. For that reason, we are somewhat biased toward dirt racing. That said, I have not always been a big proponent of BMS being covered in dirt for NASCAR’s sake. In my opinion, using the facility as a dirt track takes away one of the better pavement short track races on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

Especially after the novelty of the first year back in 2021 wore off, I have been in favor of NASCAR going to an actual dirt track such as the Eldora Speedway or Knoxville Raceway if it intends to continue sanctioning dirt races at its highest level. However, I understand that there are many obstacles that would have to be cleared regarding sponsors, television issues, track amenities, politics, and otherwise for that to actually happen.

The likelihood of another dirt track being used is probably not great even though the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has used both Eldora and Knoxville. Because of that, I would advocate the use of Bristol for NASCAR’s dirt racing exploits if no other venue is an option.

I believe that, for the sake of variety, there should be at least some dirt on the schedule just as there are road courses, super speedways, paved short tracks, and intermediate tracks. If other arrangements can’t be made, I hope Bristol continues to be used in that way.

One aspect of the NASCAR racing to be held there this weekend that will be different is that one of the biggest stars in Dirt Late Model competition will try his hand in NASCAR. Jonathan Davenport will race in both the Truck Series event and the Cup Series show.

Other dirt competitors such as Scott Bloomquist, Bobby Pierce and Mike Marlar have raced in NASCAR dirt events with varying degrees of success. It will not only be interesting to see how Davenport does but also if his presence inspires dirt fans to attend or tune in.

To get back to the question posed in the title of this piece, my opinion is that NASCAR should be racing on dirt. I would prefer that it actually do so on a “real” dirt racing facility.

If Bristol is to continuing serving as NASCAR’s dirt track, I would hope to see bigger true dirt events. Attendance was not great for some of the races held there over the first two years but it was good for others. It seemed as if there was an oversaturation at first as promoters sought to take advantage of the newness so scheduling would be crucial.

Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most impressive sporting venues in the world. It would seem that that fact alone would create a powerful lure if used appropriately. And it should be used as a dirt track if no other option is available for NASCAR to incorporate dirt into its schedule.

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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.

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