Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol will be the first time NASCAR’s premier series has competed on dirt in the sport’s modern era. The last time it happened was 1970 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the winner that day was Richard Petty.
Clint Bowyer—who will call Sunday’s race from the TV booth as part of the FOX NASCAR team that he joined this season after more than 15 years in Cup—recognizes the novelty of Cup drivers racing on dirt at Bristol for the first time but is quick to point out that there was a day when NASCAR’s top series frequented dirt tracks. After all, before NASCAR ever held a race on the asphalt at Daytona International Speedway—the house that NASCAR founder William H.G. France built in 1959—the sport began on the beaches of Daytona.
“This isn’t new to NASCAR,” Bowyer said. “This is back to where we came from. I think that’s something to stay focused on and remember as well. This isn’t just completely thrown out of nowhere. This is something our past and our history was part of.”
Look for Bowyer and fellow FOX Sports announcers Mike Joy and Jeff Gordon to go out of their way this weekend to mention the role that dirt track racing has played in NASCAR history. They’ll likely also touch on the fact that this isn’t the first time Bristol Motor Speedway officials have chosen to cover their traditionally concrete surface in dirt. It also happened in both 2000 and 2001, when the speedway hauled in more than 14,000 truckloads of red clay to host the World of Outlaws and dirt Super Late Models.