NASCAR viewer’s guide: Bristol Motor Speedway dirt

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For just the second time since 1970, NASCAR is on dirt.

The half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway is covered in red clay and ready to host its second NASCAR weekend on dirt, welcoming the Cup and Truck series for a weekend of mudslinging.

With a unique event comes unique formats. Dive into the story lines, procedures, entry lists and schedule here:

Dirty all over again

Bristol Motor Speedway is covered in dirt once again, but this time with some minor tweaks to the racing surface.

Last year’s corners were banked at 18-19 degrees. This year, the track utilized progressive banking, 16 degrees at the bottom ranging up to 18 degrees before one lane at 19 degrees near the top of the track. The change in banking, along with running the race at night is believed to provide better racing lines and options for drivers throughout the event.

Speedway Motorsports, Bristol’s parent company, stored the dirt from last year’s event to use it again in 2022. That includes about a two-inch layer of sawdust beneath dirt used from Bristol’s World of Outlaw dirt races in 2000-2001 (5,330 cubic yards), dirt from the campground (4,008 cubic yards), lime-treated clay and Bluff City Red Tennessee Clay on the top layer.

Lining them up

NASCAR will hold two 50-minute practice sessions for both the Cup and Truck series on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, both series will run four 15-lap qualifying heat races to determine the starting lineup for their respective feature events, with the truck races beginning at 4 p.m. ET (FS2) and Cup’s races at 6 p.m. ET (FS2). Lineups for the heats will be set via random draw.

In the heat races, drivers will earn points per their finishing positions just as they would in a stage — 10 points for first down to one point for 10th. Competitors also receive passing points — one point per each car passed from their original starting position. If a driver loses positions, they will receive zero passing points. The drivers’ points totals will dictate the starting position for the feature race.

Perfect on dirt?

By virtue of winning last year’s event, Joey Logano is the only active driver to win a Cup race on dirt. But the addition of the Next Gen car, which features an independent rear suspension unlike its predecessor, nullifies any knowledge learned from the inaugural Bristol dirt race. Logano, who was victorious in the exhibition Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, has not won a points-paying Cup race since claiming the checkered flag atop Bristol’s dirt.

“I’ve never seen a dirt car with independent rear suspension before. So that will be different,” Logano said in a Bristol release. “The track is a little different, right? You’ve got a little progressive banking up top, so that may change it up a little bit.

“We’re racing at night, so that should help the dust factor a little bit. We’ll just kind of wait and see. Over time, we’ll kind of be able to put all that together. Beats me. I’ll figure it out.”

Other drivers in the field have won NASCAR races on dirt. Austin Dillon (2013), Bubba Wallace (2014), Christopher Bell (2015), Kyle Larson (2016) and Chase Briscoe (2018) all won Truck Series races at Eldora. Martin Truex Jr. also won the series’ dirt race at Bristol in 2021.

Entry lists

The 36 chartered teams make up this week’s entry list for the NASCAR Cup Series.

Noah Gragson, who sits third in Xfinity Series points, will drive the No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in his third career Cup start.

Justin Allgaier, his JR Motorsports teammate in Xfinity, also returns to the Cup Series and will pilot the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

Josh Williams, who competes for BJ McLeod Motorsports in Xfinity, will make his Cup debut in the No. 78 Ford for Live Fast Motorsports on Sunday.

In the Camping World Truck Series, 38 trucks are entered for Saturday night’s race, meaning two drivers will fail to advance to the feature race.

Defending USAC Midget National champion Buddy Kofoid will make his NASCAR debut in the No. 51 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Jessica Friesen, wife of series regular and Next Gen dirt tester Stewart Friesen, returns in an attempt to make her second career start in the No. 62 Chevrolet.

Cup regular Austin Dillon, the 2011 series champion, will drive the No. 20 Chevy for Young’s Motorsports, returning to the series for the first time since 2019. Dillon won the series’ inaugural race on dirt at Eldora Speedway in 2013.

Cup champion Joey Logano also returns to trucks for the first time since 2015, when he won at Martinsville. Logano will drive the No. 54 Ford for David Gilliland Racing, joining Cup rookie Harrison Burton who will drive DGR’s No. 17 Ford.

Chase Elliott will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports on Saturday, returning to the series after a one-off with GMS Racing at Texas last June. His Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Alex Bowman have also driven the HendrickCars.com sponsored truck this season, with Byron scoring a win at Martinsville and Bowman finishing 25th at Circuit of the Americas.

NASCAR Cup Series Entry List — Bristol Motor Speedway dirt

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Entry List — Bristol Motor Speedway dirt

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, April 15

Forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 74 degrees, low of 48 degrees

  • 3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Truck practice (all entries, FS1)
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Cup practice (all entries, FS1)
  • 5:35 – 6:25 p.m. — Truck final practice (all entries, FS1)
  • 6:35 – 7:25 p.m. — Cup practice (all entries, FS1)

Saturday, April 16

Forecast: Mostly cloudy, high of 70 degrees, low of 43 degrees

  • 4:30 p.m. — First Truck qualifying race (15 laps; FS2)
  • 4:45 p.m. — Second Truck qualifying race (15 laps; FS2)
  • 5 p.m. — Third Truck qualifying race (15 laps. FS2)
  • 5:15 p.m. — Fourth Truck qualifying race (15 laps, FS2)
  • 6 p.m. — First Cup qualifying race (15 laps, FS2)
  • 6:15 p.m. — Second Cup qualifying race (15 laps, FS2)
  • 6:30 p.m. — Third Cup qualifying race (15 laps, FS2)
  • 6:45 p.m. — Fourth Cup qualifying race (15 laps, FS2)
  • 8 p.m. — Truck race (150 laps, 75 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, April 17

Forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 66 degrees, low of 45 degrees

  • 7 p.m. — Cup race (250 laps, 125 miles; FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.