BRISTOL — It seems Bristol Motor Speedway can’t catch a break with the weather when it comes to its NASCAR weekends.
This weekend’s flooding around the Tri-Cities area is the latest in a series of weather-related issues for the track. It forced the cancellation of scheduled heat races for the NASCAR Cup Series and Truck Series and the postponement of feature races for both series to Monday.
It is a shame with the hype surrounding the Food City Dirt Race, the first NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt since September 1970. It has been the most talked-about race in decades, even more than the season-opening Daytona 500, considered the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing.”
The talk has even been more than changing the Charlotte fall race from a 500-mile race on the oval to the ROVAL, a combination of the oval and the infield road course. Honestly, the last time I can remember this much hype for a NASCAR race was the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis in 1994.
Since the weather-related issues, many have jumped on social media to criticize both BMS and NASCAR for the whole concept of converting it into a dirt track. The drumbeat was especially loud after Saturday’s attempted heat races for the NASCAR Truck Series, aborted after one lap with mud covering the vehicles’ windshields.
We had the other extreme Friday with dry conditions, meaning a lot of dust was being kicked up in the air.
Before passing judgment, those criticizing the Food City Dirt Race should at least give it a chance. Postponement of NASCAR races, dirt track races and in this case Bristol races, is nothing new. The 2017 Food City 500 was moved to Monday and the 2018 race had 204 laps completed before it was moved to Monday as well.
Most frustrating is Bristol’s luck with spring weather during the COVID-19 pandemic.
April 5 was the original scheduled date for the 2020 Food City 500. It was a beautiful 73-degree day with partly cloudy skies.
The race was rescheduled for May 31 and renamed the Food City presents Supermarket Heroes 500 to honor those grocery workers and truck drivers during the pandemic. This was a time when fans were clamoring for outdoor entertainment and the track was besieged with ticket requests.
However, government restrictions at the time didn’t allow fans in the stands. Even the press had limited access with few reporters able to attend.
So, how was the weather that day? A picture-perfect 76 degrees with fair skies.
Beyond that, it was voted the best race ever in the five-year old poll conducted by veteran motorsports journalist Jeff Gluck.
It was the race which Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Joey Logano were battling for the lead over the final laps, only to take themselves out of contention. At the end, Elliott made an aggressive dive to the inside, washed up the track, where he and Logano collided between the turns 3-4 wall.
It allowed Brad Keselowski to get by and score his third Bristol win. Unfortunately, no fans were there to see the classic race.
Fast forward to this weekend and it’s a shame many fans will have to return home and not get a chance to see NASCAR’s first Cup race on dirt in 50 years.
It’s another tough blow for BMS and NASCAR, but hopefully the weather will cooperate Monday. Then, we will see if the race lives up to the hype of a special event or if it’s a one-time experiment not to be repeated.