Gettin’ Dirty: More than 50 years since NASCAR Cup Series has competed on dirt

NASCAR Cup Series

Not since the checkered flag flew on NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty for winning the race on September 30, 1970 at North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina has the NASCAR Cup Series competed on a dirt track. Now more than 50 years later, the series is getting back to its roots in this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as more than 20,000 cubic yards of dirt were hauled in to create the temporary dirt track surface.

The NASCAR Cup Series has had a long legacy of racing at dirt tracks prior to the Modern Era (1972-Present), from 1949 to 1970 the series competed in 501 races on dirt. The very first NASCAR Cup Series points-paying sanctioned race in the inaugural season of 1949 was on dirt at Charlotte (Old) Speedway, a 0.75-mile track in Charlotte, North Carolina and the event was won by Jim Roper driving a Lincoln.  

Top 10 Cup Winners On Dirt
RankCup Dirt WinnersWins
1Lee Petty43
2Buck Baker42
3Herb Thomas41
4Tim Flock36
5Ned Jarrett35
6Richard Petty31
7David Pearson23
8Junior Johnson23
9Speedy Thompson18
10Fireball Roberts15
Fonty Flock15

In total, the 501 dirt Cup races have produced 76 different winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty leads the series in dirt track wins with 46 victories; followed by Buck Baker with 42 and Herb Thomas with 41.

This week the competitors will be tasked with wrangling a Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track that has been measured to exactly 0.5-mile, and this weekend’s event will be 125 miles (250 laps) in length. The race will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 75 laps each and the final stage is 100 laps.   

Plus, NASCAR has instituted a special format for Busch Pole Qualifying that includes qualifying races, very similar to what the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series did at Eldora Speedway, to decide the starting lineup. The lineups for the qualifying races will be done by random draw on Thursday, March 25 at 4 p.m. ET. There are four qualifying races scheduled with 39 entrants competing. The first three qualifying races will have 10 drivers each and the fourth qualifying race will have nine drivers entered.   


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