*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideDirtRacing.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the dirt racing topics of the day from east Tennessee and beyond.
The latest edition of the Turn 2 Blog is presented by the American Crate All-Star Series.
Richard: The NASCAR portion of the time in which the Bristol Motor Speedway has been covered in dirt has now passed. And while there are still a couple of true dirt racing events remaining, the question that can now be asked is what impact has all of this had on actual dirt racing.
In my opinion, this has served to benefit dirt racing as a whole.
First and obviously, the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals would not have occurred had the historic half-mile track not been covered with clay for the purpose of hosting NASCAR. As a result, literally hundreds of drivers got to check off a bucket list item by racing on the same track where the likes of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon have won races. And that’s not to mention the huge crowd that assembled on Friday and Saturday of that week to enjoy racing and ultimately watch Jonathan Davenport take home $50,000 from the Super Late Model feature on the last night of the week-long affair.
And more than that, since NASCAR intended to race on dirt for the first time in more than 50 years, the drivers from that circuit went out to various tracks to enter races to gain experience on dirt. As we have discussed in this forum before, tracks tend to benefit when star drivers such as Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, or Brad Keselowski show up to compete and that has been the case during the late winter and early spring of 2021.
More fans showing up, for whatever reason, is never a bad thing and opens the door for the possibility of new fans being made for dirt racing.
What have been your thoughts after reaching the halfway mark of the Bristol Dirt experience?
Michael: I think as a whole, it has been positive. There has been more talk about dirt racing than in any time I can remember from national media members. The racing at the Bristol Dirt Nationals got a number of mentions during Fox’s telecast of the Cup Series race at Atlanta. The talk continued some into the Bristol Cup coverage.
As with anything that’s new or hasn’t been done in a long time, there were some growing pains. I expect some of those to be ironed out by the time the World of Outlaws begin their takeover this weekend.
Richard: Ultimately, we will not fully understand the impact of a dirt covered NASCAR track for a while. But one thing I found interesting was the possibility of an impact on the competition side of things. For example, Kyle Busch made some remarks in his post-race press conference on Saturday night about the setups used on Dirt Late Models. Anyone who has ever listened to his scanner chatter during a NASCAR race knows that he has a great understanding of what it takes to make a race car go fast.
Later on in his own media availability time, Jonathan Davenport remarked that he may have even gotten some setup ideas from his “teammate”, Busch, that he might try on his car. Busch has been involved in race chassis construction for pavement Late Models for a few years now so he understands the short track side of things as well.
Anytime there is a sort of crossover from one form of racing to another, there is the possibility of learning new things, isn’t there?
Michael: We have already seen an influence of pavement racing in Dirt Late Model racing with the shocks teams use these days. The more we see NASCAR drivers, and others that are involved with pavement racing, cross over into Dirt Late Models and other forms of dirt racing, the more we will see some influences. But the same could go the other way as well.
I find it refreshing to see that more and more NASCAR drivers are venturing into various aspects of dirt racing. One, they seem to be having a lot of fun doing it. And two, it goes back to the days of A.J. Foyt and others that would race all types of cars during a season.
Richard: It’s clear that there has been a bridging of the gap between NASCAR and dirt over the past 12 months or so. While there might be several factors that have led to that coming together, I believe much of it is due to the headlines generated last season by Kyle Larson as he tore through the dirt racing world, bringing his NASCAR fame with him.
I have been referring to this at the “Kyle Larson Effect”. I might even go so far as to say that Bristol might not have even been covered in dirt if not for the interest stirred by that driver in 2020. I believe that got the attention of the TV networks which spurred the move.
Am I going too far or do you agree that Larson was not entirely, but largely, responsible for the NASCAR/Dirt Racing reconnection?
Michael: I believe Larson played a big part in the connection. He got some of the biggest cheers at Bristol any time the Super Late Models rolled onto the track.
The TV angle is interesting. While Fox was a big factor behind the idea of putting dirt down on Bristol, I found it interesting there has been little mention of Larson’s success on dirt during the early broadcasts. I’m not really sure why that is.
Since Bristol has already announced they’ll go back to dirt next spring, I will be interested to see if they have the Bristol Dirt Nationals again or some other variation. If we see the Dirt Nationals again, I would like for there to be some organization regarding where specific classes park, the event promoter not keep out certain media outlets because of some sort of conflict, and cut down on some of the classes. I don’t think the demand will be as high the second time around and I don’t see the need for 3 Modified classes or 3 Late Model classes.
Richard: As we have written here earlier, there were a few lessons to be learned. Still, I believe dirt racing has benefitted as a whole from all of this. I am anxious to see how the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series and the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races go over the next couple of weeks. Those events are limited in the number of competitors allowed and in the number of classes competing.
The success of those races may play a role in determining how many other events will accompany the NASCAR races at BMS next year.
Also, NASCAR and pavement racing fans can check out InsideCircleTrack.