NASCAR: When was the last Cup Series race on dirt?

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The NASCAR Cup Series is set to race at Bristol Motor Speedway today, but on a dirt surface, marking the first dirt race for the series in over five decades.

The seventh of 36 races on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is scheduled to take place this afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway, but this race at “The Last Great Colosseum” will be unlike any of the previous 120 events contested there since it opened in 1961.

NASCAR introduced a slew of changes to the schedule ahead of this season, and one of those changes was converting the spring race at the four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked oval in Bristol, Tennessee to a dirt race.

Since the inaugural Cup Series season in 1949, there have been 2,648 races contested. Of those 2,648 events, 489 have been contested on dirt.

However, all 489 of those dirt races fell within the sport’s first 989 events; none of the last 1,659 races have been dirt races.

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The inaugural Cup Series race, which was contested in June 1949, was held on dirt at Charlotte Speedway, a 0.75-mile (1.207-kilometer) track in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was Jim Roper who took the checkered flag.

But this Sunday’s 250-lap race, the Food City Dirt Race, will be the first Cup Series race on dirt since September 1970, when Richard Petty won at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, a 0.5-mile (0.805-kilometer) oval track in Raleigh, North Carolina.

A total of 10 drivers have combined for 299 of the 489 race victories on dirt, with Lee Petty leading the way with 42 ahead of Buck Baker and Herb Thomas with 40.

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The Food City Dirt Race is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Bristol Motor Speedway beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET this afternoon.