What drivers are saying about racing on dirt at Bristol this weekend

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Here’s what some drivers have to say about Sunday’s dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first Cup dirt race since 1970:

Aric Almirola

“I heard from a lot of people that, ‘think more like Richmond and Martinsville than dirt track racing.’ From what I’ve heard from a lot of people, it’s not like typical dirt car racing. You don’t have the car really hung out sideways, standing in the gas and just slinging mud. The cars drive a lot straighter on the dirt. These big heavy stock cars do. They’re not running super sideways. You’re not driving them like you would a typical dirt car, so I think that’s what everybody has really referenced is that the cars are not way up on the left side and dug in with the right side tires. There’s just a lot of differences in the way that the dirt cars drive and the way that they race versus how I’m expecting it from what I hear and what I gather our Cup cars to drive on dirt.”

Christopher Bell

“I hope that it turns out well. If you look at the history of events in the Cup Series, it seems like that finish is a really, really big key ingredient to a great race. You look at the Ryan Blaney win at the Roval the first time we went there. I don’t think anybody would classify that as a great race, but it had a great finish so it got great reviews. I just hope that we’re able to get green flag laps in, having long green flag runs. A great finish is necessary for it to be considered a great race, and we know it’s going to be a full field and we know there’s going to be bumping and banging. I just hope it’s not a demolition derby.”

RYAN BLANEY

“You can expect all you want to, but until you get there and you see what the track is like and how much water they’ve put down on it, if it’s rubbering up, if it’s really slick — that’s just game time stuff. That’s what makes those dirt guys so great at what they do is they have to notice that every single lap and it changes every lap and they have great ability to really switch up what they’re doing.”

Alex Bowman

“I’m excited. I may not be a dirt guy, per se, but I probably have more dirt starts than most, I guess, going into Bristol. I ran a couple different midget series for a couple years. While I ran pavement more than dirt, I did run some dirt stuff. I’m going to race my sprint car this year as well. I definitely enjoy the dirt thing. I’m ready to go. I ran the ARCA race on dirt. I feel like that was somewhat similar. I don’t know what to expect. You saw the track get pretty rough over the last couple nights. But those late models make a lot of grip, do some crazy stuff with the rear suspension that I think probably tends to dig the racetrack up a little bit. Our cars are heavy. We’ll see if they do the same thing or not. I’m just excited. I love new and different things. … Who knows if it’s going to be amazing, not great, what the racetrack is going to do, or what’s going to happen. I think the fact that it’s new, different and exciting, is really cool to be a part of.”

Chase Briscoe

“It’s for sure a wildcard. It’s one of those races that nobody going into it knows what’s going to happen. Anybody could go win this race. Equipment is still going to matter. I think it’s kind of somewhere in the middle of a superspeedway and just a normal race, equipment is still going to matter, a little more than it would at a superspeedway. At the same time, I feel like that any team could go run here better than they typically do. Until we get there and see what happens, I think it’s hard to say. I’m just looking forward to it. I think the Cup Series has needed a dirt race for a very long time.”

Chris Buescher

“We’ll have cars looking even rougher than they typically do leaving Bristol, I believe. The bright side of that is we do not have splitters on the cars, so I think typically when you have issues hitting fenders or running into each other, the splitter wins every time over a tire. There’s just no give to them, so I think all the time you’re worried about cutting tires down from contact with the splitter – we won’t have that. The noses are pretty flexible now that that piece is gone, so I think it does open it up to being able to push and shove a little bit more. … You’re gonna have a lot of beating and banging that’s not really going to be on purpose. It’s just gonna come with everybody trying to figure this out.”

Kurt Busch

“It’s a cool blast to the past. … Speedway Motorsports does cool off-the-wall, out-of-the-box thinking. They talked about this Roval thing three years ago and now this is like that new promotional piece. It’s a tribute to the past of NASCAR racing. Trucks have been in Eldora for years. They got this stadium where we can separate race fans and still pack in a good amount. The group in Bristol, they’re there to perform and they’re going to get that track perfected. Our cars are big, they’re heavy, they’re going to glaze over this dirt and it’s going to be dry, slick and quick. … We’re all going to be sliding sideways to stay out of trouble and trying to win the first NASCAR dirt race at Bristol.”

Kyle Busch

The dirt guys, I would say, definitely have an advantage. The more experience you have on dirt, the more trust you have in what the vehicle can do on dirt and what your driving style is or what your driving technique can be and how you can trust the grip level that the dirt has versus what your car has. I think there’s a lot of things that the dirt guys can really pick up on. You always see in those truck races the guys that are good at it, that put some time into it, are better than the ones that are not. I can’t name them all, but (Kyle) Larson, Christopher (Bell), (Tyler) Reddick, even Bubba (Wallace). Bubba never really had any dirt experience, but he did a good job in the Eldora race for us (winning in 2014). (Stewart) Friesen, I think he will actually do a really good job. He’s obviously known as a dirt guy. Those guys will shine, and I think that they will be faster during points of the weekend, but I think it’s all going to be circumstantial on how it comes down to the end and what exactly happens towards the finish.”

Austin Dillon

“The heat races – they’ll be challenging. It’s a short amount of time and you’ll want to get as many passing points as you can. Your starting position matters at any type of racing level. The draw – I haven’t really looked into how that’s going to go down or where we start in the heat races yet. But I think the whole process is going to be fun. I was hoping we would go off of a regular race weekend and go off of the past race, because we would have a pretty good starting position after our run at Atlanta this past weekend, and I think starting up front would be really good for us. I’m not really worried about where we start in the dirt race because I feel like if you do your job and practice that you should be able to move forward through the race.”

Chase Elliott

“I’m just excited about a new track, well, a new thing I should say. I think everybody should be. I think that is where the excitement will be as we get into that event. It’s still Bristol. It’s still a really cool venue and cool atmosphere. Just to have something new and something different will be something to talk about. Something to talk about means you’re drawing attention and that is good for everybody.”

Kevin Harvick

“I think there are so many variables in that race. If I just step back and look at it and say, ‘What would you think about this race? What would be the proper thing to do for us with me personally not having a huge background?’ … I know that I’m gonna be at a little bit at a deficit as far as when I look at the racetrack and the things that I see and where I need to go. Do I need to keep moving up? Do I need to move down? When does it go dry slick? What’s the racetrack gonna be like? What are you anticipating? I think, for me, I have to look at Chase Briscoe and kind of take (his) lead. He’s got a background in it, and just know that I’m still gonna be driving a Cup car on a dirt track. It’s not gonna be like a dirt late model or a midget or a modified, but those guys that do that stuff all the time will definitely have an advantage of knowing where they need to go when they need to go, and I just kind of have to follow along and keep my eyes open and pay attention. In the end, I still think that it’s gonna be just survival. It’s the longest dirt race in the history of mankind, so who knows what the racetrack is going to be like at the end of 250 laps.”

Erik Jones

“I have really limited experience racing dirt. I guess the only two times I’ve done it is the Truck race at Eldora, I did two of those. I don’t have a really great perspective as far as the racing. Obviously, part of me is sad that Bristol is going to be dirt. I love that place and have run really well there. I feel like one opportunity to run really well (got) kind of tossed out of the window in the spring. I still think we can run well on the dirt, but it’s more of a wildcard than what I thought the normal track would be. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited for it nonetheless. I think it’s something totally different. I think there are some stuff that will apply from the Elodra truck races I can take.”

Kyle Larson

“I would not be shocked if a pavement guy went there and was fast right off the bat because I don’t think it’s going to be like dirt like we’re used to. It’s hard to also not look at the guys that have a lot of dirt experience as being the favorite. I think Christopher Bell, I think he’s obviously one of the most talented race car drivers I’ve ever watched, especially on dirt. I think, for sure, he’ll be one of the guys to beat. Austin Dillon is another one that I look at. If anybody has got more experience racing on this type of stuff, it’s him. I’ve got probably still under 10 dirt late model events under my belt, where he grew up racing modifieds and late models and stuff, so he is used to the heavier types of cars. He just raced a crate late model there, so he’s used less horsepower and stuff in a full-bodied car. I think Austin, if anybody, probably has the most advantage, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a guy like Kyle Busch, who is so talented and can adapt to anything, can go there and win. I wouldn’t be shocked either if the finishing results weren’t much different than a normal Bristol race.”

Ryan Newman

“I think it goes back in time and will show a lot of people a lot of the history of our sport and how simple dirt track racing is. … You just go out and water the racetrack and get it close, you make sure it’s not dusty for the fans, and you put on a show. The drivers will figure out what the best line is. If it’s a good track, we’ll see a great race.”

Martin Truex Jr.

“I look at it as Bristol has been our worst track for the past couple years. Why the heck not lay down dirt and see what we can do? I think it’s going to be fun. New challenge, something different.”

Bubba Wallace

“I’m just excited for the opportunity. Obviously, (Kyle) Larson, (Christopher) Bell are the ones to watch, (Tyler) Reddick, for sure. From my experience at Eldora, it didn’t really drive much like a dirt late model or a sprint car. It drove like a really slick asphalt. You just had to be really mindful of rear grip and forward drive, and making sure you’re making your straightaways as long as possible. We’ll see. We ended up beating one of the best dirt guys (Larson) in 2014 (Truck race at Eldora). See if we can do it again.”