NASCAR’s controversial Bristol dirt track race won’t return in 2024: Will there ever be another?

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Bristol Motor Speedway will drop its controversial NASCAR dirt race and return to two concrete track races next season, the track announced Friday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Bristol covered its high-banked track in dirt for its spring race beginning in 2021 in hopes of creating an event that would increase attendance and TV ratings. The race was shown in primetime on Easter Sunday this season.
  • All three dirt races were met with mixed reviews as some fans enjoyed seeing NASCAR race on dirt instead of a paved track, while others were upset Bristol would take away one of its traditional races for something that felt like a gimmick.
  • With the absence of Bristol Dirt, no additional dirt race is expected on next season’s NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Is this a good move?

You’re talking to someone who loathed the Bristol Dirt race more than any NASCAR race in memory, so there’s some bias in this answer. But Bristol is one of NASCAR’s crown jewel racetracks, the signature “Last Great Colosseum” where the racing is typically compelling.

Having only one “real” race per year at Bristol (the annual Night Race, which occurs again Saturday night) is not enough and it didn’t make sense to cover a terrific track with dirt.

Will there ever be a dirt race again in the Cup Series?

When Bristol Dirt arrived, it was heralded as a throwback to NASCAR’s roots. But in reality, today’s modern cars don’t race well on the dirt and aren’t suited for it. For one thing, a good dirt track requires moisture to put on a good show, and moisture equals mud.

But NASCAR chose to keep the windshields in the cars, which meant the track couldn’t be too muddy or drivers would not be able to see. Then the track would dry out and have the danger of becoming too dusty for spectators. If NASCAR ever wanted to try dirt again, it should go to a real dirt track (such as Eldora Speedway in Ohio or Knoxville Raceway in Iowa) and remove the windshields to provide for optimal track conditions.

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(Photo: Chris McDill / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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