Rain puts damper on historic NASCAR weekend; Bristol dirt race now on Monday
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
Rain has played havoc with a historic NASCAR weekend as both the Cup and truck races were pushed to Monday afternoon because of heavy rains at Bristol Motor Speedway.
This isn’t the normal Bristol concrete track. Well, it’s there, but it has 23,000 cubic yards of dirt on top of it for the NASCAR Cup Series' first race on dirt since 1970. That makes for a challenge to get ready after heavy rains have pummeled the area.
The Camping World Truck Series race is rescheduled for noon ET Monday on FS1 with the Cup race following at 4 p.m. on FOX.
With this being the first race weekend for this surface, how long it will take to dry out and prepare for racing is a major unknown. It could take an hour if the rain lasts less than a half-hour.
It could take three or four hours, or even longer, after a couple of hours of rain. As NASCAR saw Saturday, the track was not ready during a three-hour stretch where it did not rain.
They have to let the rain soak into the track and then pack down the surface with heavy "packer cars" that are driven around the track. They can then till the upper layer, if needed, to get it ready for racing.
Why can’t they race in the rain? Several reasons.
If they are on a track that is being raced on that is packed solid, it will get too slick. And then once it turns into mud, obviously they can get bogged into the surface.
There are two additional problems with mud. It can clog ducts and overheat fluids in the car. And because the Cup cars have windshields, they also can’t have mud splashed on them, or the drivers will have difficulty seeing.
"If the dirt has too much water content in it and either, A, the track starts getting rough, or B, our windshields get mudded up," said driver Christopher Bell. "Our windshields get mudded up, the front of our cars get mudded up and the engines are going to get hot."
That was evident on the first lap of an attempted heat for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday afternoon. NASCAR got a lap in and had to stop the heat because drivers couldn’t see. The rains followed soon afterward and washed out all of the scheduled racing for Saturday.
The rain was so bad Saturday night and Sunday morning that with flood warnings in the area and potentially never getting the track ready, NASCAR scrapped Sunday’s activities by noon. At least the forecast is promising as the National Weather Service predicts temperatures in the 50s, very little cloud cover and less than a 10 percent chance of rain.
NASCAR is approaching this weekend as it does any other weekend when it comes to rescheduling. It will consider the forecast and consult with the track and television partners to determine a race time if the race cannot be run on the scheduled day.
Because the heat races were canceled, NASCAR used the formula it normally uses to set the lineup for the races where it doesn’t have qualifying. Kyle Larson is on the pole but will have to drop to the rear for the race on Sunday because of an engine change.
NASCAR has also already made one change to the race format for Sunday. Instead of stages of 75 laps, 75 laps and 100 laps, the stages will be 100-100-50 with a competition caution at Lap 50 and Lap 150 so teams can change tires every 50 laps.
The tires, which NASCAR had hoped would last at least 100 laps, had been showing significant wear in practice on Friday.
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!