NASCAR: Bristol dirt race could come down to one key factor

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The upcoming NASCAR Cup Series dirt race on Bristol Motor Speedway’s red clay brings many questions entering the weekend.

With Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race race at Bristol Motor Speedway being the first NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt in over 50 years, no one will know how the Gen-6 car will drive until Friday’s practice sessions.

Many drivers were preparing last week by racing either UMP Modifieds or Super Late Models in the Bristol Dirt Nationals, but that is just to get a feel for the track and what it could be like this weekend.

Related Story. Bristol dirt issue solved?. light

The only way, though, that anyone could get a feel for what a Cup car could race like at Bristol Motor Speedway on dirt is through iRacing.

I’ve tested a Cup car on iRacing already. A bunch of drivers raced it in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race on Wednesday night.

The biggest takeaway I have noticed in advance of this weekend is throttle control.

And it seems likely that this is what Cup drivers will expect.

More from NASCAR Cup Series

This weekend, NASCAR will utilize the short track/road course package. With 750 horsepower, it is really tough to go full throttle on the straights. Trying to gas it on iRacing led to the car getting wicked loose, and that’s when the track was green and not rubbered in!

Throttle control could be consistent at the start of the race. Still, once rubbered in, the track will really get put into the driver’s hands when it comes to when you need to let off and when to put a little more throttle in on the exit of a corner.

Two weeks ago, Daniel Suarez, who has never raced on dirt in a stock car before, spoke with the media and gave his outlook on the Cup race.

"“I think it’s gonna be a whole like racing in the rain. You have way too much power. I was actually joking with my crew chief [Travis Mack] that for our race in Bristol Dirt, is going to be the only race of the year I’m asking for less horsepower. Because we’re gonna have too much! We won’t be able to use it! It will be about patience, car control, and surviving.”"

Chris Buescher, who raced on dirt when he participated in the ARCA Menards Series, isn’t really too sure about how the car will drive.

"“I would say the information that I’ve heard from some of the Truck teams and drivers leaving Eldora is they did detune their motors or the carburetor to make less power,” he said. “More than likely, that’s gonna be the case at Bristol as well. The only asterisk I’d put next to that is the amount of banking that is still in the track with the dirt it is less than our concrete track. …“There are so many different factors that are going to go into how much throttle you can use, but at the end of the day if you have the power, you don’t have to use it. That’s gonna come down to control with our right foot and how we feel we’re able to manage our power and tires and manage the racetrack.”"

As for a driver who has raced on dirt many times and competed in the Chili Bowl in the past, Chase Briscoe wants the full horsepower.

"“Personally, I want the power. I think if maybe you’re a guy that hasn’t run dirt before and not used to that type of throttle control, I could see where you would want to do stuff like that, but, for me, I want all the power I can handle. I feel like my right foot is good enough to manage it when I need to, but I want that power when I need it, especially if it builds a cushion or gets really rough. I think you’re gonna want that power to be able to bust through all those holes.”"

When it comes to throttle control and being patient, I think this race will see the drivers with a lot of dirt experience get the advantage, regardless of track conditions.

Those drivers include Chili Bowl veterans Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. along with drivers who race regularly on dirt, aka “Dirt Slingers,” such as Big Block Modified and Truck Series driver Stewart Friesen, USAC Midget driver Chris Windom and Super Late Model racer Mike Marlar.

Next. Every NASCAR track from the 2010s no longer on the schedule. dark

It will be an exciting and interesting race indeed. The Food City Dirt Race is scheduled to take place this Sunday, March 28. The seventh race of the 2021 season is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.