NASCAR: How will the Bristol dirt starting lineup be set?

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

NASCAR is set to use a unique qualifying format to set the starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first on dirt in over 50 years.

The NASCAR Cup Series is set to return to dirt for the first time since the 1970 season this Sunday with the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the seventh of 36 races on the 2021 schedule.

In doing so, a unique qualifying format is set to be used to set the starting lineup.

The starting order for Sunday afternoon’s 250-lap race around the four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked oval in Bristol, Tennessee will be determined based on four heat races, but not just the results of those heat races.

Starting positions in the heat races will also come into play due to “passing points”.

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Heat race winners will receive 10 points each, with the second place finisher receiving nine, all the way down to the 10th place finisher receiving one (or the ninth place finisher receiving two in the one heat race that has just nine drivers).

However, points will also be awarded to drivers who make up spots during these races, which could prove to be disadvantageous for the drivers who start up front, despite the fact that they cannot lose points. One point will be awarded for each spot made up, although no points will be docked for losing spots.

For example, the four polesitters are slated to be StarCom Racing’s Quin Houff, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman and Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie. They cannot score any passing points due to starting up front.

As for the last place starters, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece and Stewart-Haas Racing rookie Chase Briscoe, they have the opportunity to score several passing points, although their disadvantage comes from the fact that starting in the rear gives them a smaller chance of securing a good result.

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These qualifying races are set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET tomorrow evening. The main event is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.