Time to play in the clay: Traditional ‘dirt racers’ weigh in on the upcoming Food City Dirt Race


BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – This weekend, NASCAR drivers who are used to whipping their cars around an asphalt track will get a taste of what it’s like to go back to racing’s roots – on dirt.

Stock cars will play in the clay Sunday, putting on a show in the Last Colosseum for the Food City Dirt Race.

While racing isn’t new to Bristol Motor Speedway, racing stock cars on dirt hasn’t been done in over half a century. The last time BMS hosted an event involving dirt, in general, was back in the early 2000s, and it’s a tradition the track is excited to bring back.

However, there are a number of differences between racing on dirt and asphalt. Kyle Strickler, who won the open modified feature at Bristol Dirt Nationals, said he’s been racing practically his entire life and dirt is the way to go.

“It puts on awesome racing, you can move around the race track a lot, it makes it really exciting for the fans and like I said, that’s why NASCAR is going that route and doing this awesome race at Bristol,” said Strickler.

Strickler said he’s been to watch a number of races at BMS, but nothing beats competing on a stage like that himself. He said in dirt racing, fans can have close interaction with drivers, and it’s a very family-oriented sport where fans can feel like they’re a part of racing.

While there are some changes for fans, there are also changes for drivers in terms of what they do while racing.

“That’s one thing they definitely have to learn how to do is pull the tear-offs and keep their vision clean, because they’re not used to doing that with the windshield in their car. But it’s definitely something that you learn when you first start dirt racing, and now it’s become second nature to me. I don’t even think about it, I just do it,” said Strickler.

Scott Denton, a truck driver and transportation for the 48 said aside from the tear-offs, drivers should also keep a rag in the car to help wipe off their helmet when things get dirty and the tear-offs are gone.

BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell also recommends fans bring towels, because the drivers won’t be the only ones getting dirty.

“I would wear clothes that you’re okay with getting a little bit dirty, and you may want to bring a towel or something to prepare to be able to wipe off some seats because there is going to be a little bit of dust around. It’s going to be fun, come enjoy yourself and have a great time, but you are coming to a dirt race, so be ready for it,” said Caldwell.

While masks can be removed once you arrive at your seat, Caldwell said some people may want to leave them on to avoid dirt on their face. He also recommends bringing protective eyewear.

Denton said he thinks dirt racing is more dangerous than asphalt racing, but there’s a thrill in it. Despite the potential for wet weather this weekend, he said he’s not too worried about that ruining the races.

“Dirt racing to me is fun, and when the track is dry, it’s like racing on asphalt is what people tell me because it blackens up. But if it’s muddy, it’s tackier and a lot more fun. I’d rather let it rain and then race,” said Denton.

The Food City Dirt Race will certainly be something fans will look back on and remember fondly, according to Denton.

“If the pandemic wasn’t going on, I think that they’d have a sellout because it’s the unknown, no one knows what’s going to happen. Although the trucks have raced at Eldora and all that and have experience, these stock cars haven’t been on the dirt so the fans are going to enjoy this,” he said.

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