NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Racing fans are about to experience something different this weekend. For the first time since 1970, the NASCAR Cup Series will happen on dirt, but it’s not going to take place on a traditional dirt track.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. has temporarily converted Bristol Motor Speedway into a half-mile dirt track, covering its concrete surface with nearby ‘Bluff City Clay.’
More than 23 thousand cubic yards of dirt have been brought in to create the track for this weekend’s races. The dirt is a foot-deep at the top of each wall and eight feet deep in the center of the track.
Steve Swift, Speedway Motorsports senior vice president of operations and development, had some fun explaining how it all came together.
“We actually used spoons and little five-gallon buckets, like what you take to the beach when you build sandcastles,” Swift said. “No, I’m really joking. We used very large equipment.”
With the track now finished and ready for racing, NASCAR drivers like Austin Dillon are anxious for the challenge.
“It’ll go through so many transitions throughout the race, and that’s what’s cool about dirt racing. You have to be comfortable with change because it changes throughout the race, and to be good at it, you have to search constantly,” said Dillon.
And don’t expect cars to run at the speed they typically do at Bristol. The upcoming Cup will be 250 laps, half the typical distance, and that is an unusually long race on a dirt track. NASCAR hopes it takes around three hours.
Driver Kyle Larson doesn’t have a whole lot of experience racing on dirt tracks, but he did have some success in the truck series at Eldora Speedway and feels this track will be easier to maneuver.
“I think with Bristol having more banking, you’ll kind of have more grip than we had at Eldora. We’ll have the confidence probably in our cars to be able to move around. I actually think it’ll be a better race because of it,” said Larson.
The inclusion of a dirt race is just one of many changes to the Cup Series schedule this season. There will be seven races added on road courses, and a downtown city street course event is under consideration for future seasons. Also, the debut of the next-generation race car.