Facts & Stats Friday: NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
7 April 2023
By Bob Francis, Managing Editor
Go Full Throttle Racing News
BRISTOL, TN — The NASCAR Cup Series is back with the Next Gen car ready for some wild action on the dirt surface of Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City Dirt Race, this Sunday, April 9 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
This season marks the third-time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on dirt at Bristol. The inaugural race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track was the first-time the NASCAR Cup Series had competed on dirt in over 50 years. Not since the checkered flag flew on September 30, 1970 at North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina when NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won the race, had the NASCAR Cup Series competed on a dirt track.
With more than 23,000 cubic yards of dirt hauled in to create the temporary dirt track surface at Bristol, it is a sight to be seen when the full field takes the green flag. The inaugural Bristol Dirt event in 2021 saw five lead changes among five different leaders, but it was Team Penske’s Joey Logano who took the checkered flag over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by a scant 0.554-second. Then last season’s race was even more intense at the finish, when Kyle Busch won the Food City Dirt Race from a distant third place after the Ford of second-place Chase Briscoe slid up the high-banked dirt track into the Chevrolet of leader Tyler Reddick in the final corner, turning both cars sideways. Busch led only the final lap en route to his first dirt win.
This weekend’s Cup Series action at Bristol will kick off on Friday, April 7 with Random Draw for Qualifying Race Assignments at 5:30 p.m. ET, and then first practice from 6:35 p.m. — 7:25 p.m. ET, and then followed by final practice from 8:32 p.m. — 8:57 p.m. ET. Both practices will be televised on FS1. Then on Saturday, April 8 the Qualifying Races will be held from 6–7 p.m. ET on FS1. **Weather may impact Friday and Saturday schedules, so check outlets for the latest updates.
NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race
Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt
Sunday, April 9
7 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,808,640
TV: FOX, 6 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 125 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)
Looking back at the NASCAR Cup Series on dirt
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.
Including this past season’s dirt race at Bristol, the 503 all-time dirt Cup races have produced 78 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. Joey Logano (2021) and Kyle Busch (2022) are the only active drivers with a win on dirt in the NASCAR Cup Series.
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 the 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.
In addition, NASCAR has instituted a special format for Busch Light Pole Qualifying that includes qualifying races, to decide the starting lineup. The lineups for the qualifying races will be done by random draw on Friday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. ET. There are four qualifying races scheduled with 37 entrants competing this weekend.
Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt — Qualifying & Race Formats
This weekend’s racing will have special formats for both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races. Below are details on the 2023 Bristol Dirt qualifying and race formats:
· Qualifying Race Starting Lineup — Random draw determines qualifying race designation and starting position for the qualifying race. The draw will be in order of current owner points. Draw is scheduled for Friday, April 7 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
· Qualifying Races — Four qualifying races held at 15 laps each with only green flag laps counted — no overtime rule. Free pass and wave around procedures will be in effect.
· Points Earned During Qualifying Races — Drivers will accumulate points in the qualifying races based on finishing position and passing points. The points total of a driver’s passing points and race finishing position points determines the starting position for the feature event.
o Passing Points = The difference between assigned starting position and finishing position
§ Go forward — accumulate passing points
§ Go backward or finish where you started — zero passing points
o Race Finishing Position Points = Points received for the driver’s finishing position
§ Tiebreaker — Owner Points
· Feature Main — Lineup based on combined points of Qualifying Race finishing position and passing points.
o Feature race will be 250 laps (NCTS: 150 laps) divided into three stages (NCS: 75/150/250) / (NCTS: 40/90/150).
o Running order will be frozen at the conclusion of each stage. During the stage breaks, teams can change tires, add fuel, and make adjustments to their cars/trucks. These non-competitive pit stops must be completed in a time designated by NASCAR. No fuel or tires except at stage breaks. Flat or damaged tires may be changed with approval by NASCAR. (Note: Teams will not be required to pit during the stage breaks. Teams that elect not to pit will re-start ahead of teams that pitted. Re-start order determined by the freeze at the conclusion of the preceding stage)
· Additional Event Highlights — Choose rule will be in effect for the Bristol Dirt race. The overtime rules, free pass and wave around procedures will also be in effect.
NASCAR and Easter weekend racing
This weekend’s Food City Dirt Race (Sunday, April 9 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the NASCAR Cup Series’ 12th-time racing on Easter Sunday since its inception in 1949.
Prior to last season, the last time the series competed on Easter Sunday was March 26, 1989 at Richmond Raceway — the race was rescheduled to the Easter Sunday date after being snowed out from its original date in February. The race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace.
On two other occasions — in 1953 at Charlotte Speedway and 1954 at Orange Speedway in Hillsboro — the race was held on Easter Sunday as a make-up date due to rain.
In addition, 21 NASCAR Cup Series events have been held on Easter Weekend from Good Friday through Easter Monday (Easter Monday was a public holiday in North Carolina from 1935 to 1987).
The first time NASCAR held a Cup race on Easter Weekend was on April 12, 1952, when the event at Columbia Speedway was held on Saturday. NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker was the race winner.
On Easter weekends in 1964, 1966, & 1967 the NASCAR Cup Series held races on Saturday at Greenville Pickens Speedway and on Monday at Bowman Gray Stadium.
The race held on Easter weekend, Saturday, April 11, 1971, was the first in NASCAR Cup Series history to be broadcast live from start to finish on national television on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
Kyle Larson is the sixth different winner this season, adds name to Playoffs / All-Star Race
After another great race at Richmond Raceway that set track records in green flag passes for the lead (35 GFPL) and total green flag passes (3,816 GFP), Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson found the checkered flag first to get his first victory of the 2023 season. Now, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion has earned his spot in the Playoffs and also locked himself into the NASCAR All-Star Race that will be held at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway (May 21).
The win last weekend at Richmond, was the 20 victory in Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Cup Series career and his second at the 0.75-mile track (2017, 2023). This season, Larson is currently ranked sixth in the driver standings 41 points back from his Hendrick Motorsport’s teammate Alex Bowman in the standings lead. In seven starts this year, Larson has put up one win (Richmond), and three top fives. His average finish this season is 14.1.
Known as one the best dirt racers in the country, watch for Larson to be a force this weekend on the Bristol Dirt. In two starts on the dirt surface at Bristol, the California native has led 27 laps and put up one top-five finish. His average finish is 16.5. He finished fourth in last season’s Bristol Dirt race.
Superman Jonathan Davenport is tapped by Kaulig Racing for Bristol Dirt
Looking at all his accomplishments on dirt, it’s not surprising his nickname is Superman, because Jonathan Davenport is one of the most successful drivers competing on dirt today. This weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt, Kaulig Racing will be leaning on him for a super performance in Food City Dirt Race (April 9 at 7 p.m. Et on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as he has been tapped to pilot the №13 Chevrolet with crew chief Eddie Pardue.
Davenport, hails from Blairsville, Georgia, and has been racing in some form or fashion since 1991. Some of his biggest accomplishments on dirt include winning the 2015, 2018, and 2019 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series National Championships and the 2022 ‘Eldora Million!’ at Eldora Speedway.
This weekend will mark the first time Jonathan Davenport has attempted to compete in a NASCAR Cup Series race and will be his first NASCAR national series start. He did attempt to qualify for one NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races at Martinsville Speedway in 2013 but did not make the show.
Davenport will be teamed up Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, who in his series track debut last season started sixth and finished 14th on the Bristol dirt.
Playoff Bubble: Seven races into 2023
Seven races into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season and seven Playoff spots are spoken for as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt for the Food City Dirt Race (Sunday, April 9 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for an Easter Weekend showdown. A total of six different drivers have won this season securing their spots in the Playoffs, but don’t forget the series points leader is also guaranteed a position in the Playoffs even without a win. That leaves just nine postseason spots still up for grabs with 19 races left in the regular season.
The six NASCAR Cup Series drivers with wins this year are William Byron (Las Vegas, Phoenix), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Daytona) Kyle Busch (Fontana), Joey Logano (Atlanta), Tyler Reddick (Austin) and Kyle Larson (Richmond). A winless Alex Bowman currently holds the series driver standings lead taking the seventh spot in the postseason.
At the other end of the Playoff outlook are RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher in the 16th and final transfer spot into the Playoffs, up six points on Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez in the 17th position — the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. Both drivers are looking for their first win of 2023. In two starts at Bristol Dirt, Buescher has put up a best finish of 14th (2021) and an average finish of 14.5. Buescher also won on the paved oval at Bristol Motor Speedway last Fall. Look for Suarez to possibly make up some ground in the points on Buescher this weekend though. In two starts at Bristol Dirt, Suarez has led the second-most laps at the track in the series at 122 laps led and has posted a best finish of fourth (2021). His average finish is 8.0 on the Bristol Dirt half mile, and he finished 12th in last season’s dirt race.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
Tebow, Wickham, Asbury to headline Easter Celebration at BMS prior to the Food City Dirt Race — American sports icon and evangelist Tim Tebow will join highly acclaimed and award-winning Christian musicians Phil Wickham and Cory Asbury to headline Bristol Motor Speedway’s live Easter celebration service on Sunday, April 9, prior to the start of the historic Food City Dirt Race.
The Easter celebration will begin at 4 p.m. (ET) on the BMS Fan Midway Stage near the E Parking Lot between the Green and Orange bridges. Tebow, who grew up the son of missionaries, founded the Tim Tebow Foundation in 2010 to “bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need,” will provide the faith message during the service while Asbury and Wickham will perform several of their most popular songs. Additionally, several other speakers from the NASCAR industry will make appearances, including Motor Racing Outreach chaplain Billy Mauldin.
“We are thrilled and humbled to provide our guests with such an amazing lineup of prominent worship leaders in Tim Tebow, Phil Wickham and Cory Asbury to headline our Easter Celebration prior to the start of the Food City Dirt Race,” said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway.
Tim Tebow has been sharing faith messages from a young age when he decided to dedicate his life to spreading God’s word and serving the needy. His platform was amplified when he burst onto the national sports scene in the early 2000s as quarterback for the Florida Gators. Under his leadership and stellar play, the Gators won BCS championships in 2006 and 2008. Tebow is a past recipient of the prestigious Heisman Trophy among many awards and accolades he received during his prolific college football career. He played three seasons in the NFL and also played five years of Minor League Baseball for the New York Mets farm system. Tebow currently serves as an analyst for ESPN’s coverage of college football.
“I’m so excited to join with my friends Phil Wickham, K-LOVE, NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway for an amazing Easter celebration,” Tebow said.
San Diego native Phil Wickham has been described as a leader in the modern worship movement and he has claimed many awards for his contemporary Christian music, including being nominated for two Grammy Awards as well as multiple Billboard Music Awards. His Gold-certified single “This is Amazing Grace” was his first career №1 single.
Florida native Cory Asbury grew up in Franklin, North Carolina and started his music career at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. In 2019 the double-platinum selling artist was nominated for a Grammy for his album Reckless Love in the Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance category. The title track spent 18 weeks at №1 on Christian Radio and was named song of the year in the Contemporary Christian category by multiple music rating houses. He claimed GMA Dove Awards for several of his hits including “Reckless Love” and “The Father’s House.”
Food City names Rear Admiral Stephen Jackson as Grand Marshal for Sunday — Food City has announced that Rear Admiral Stephen “Josh” Jackson will serve as the Grand Marshal and deliver the starting command for Sunday night’s Food City Dirt Race.
“I am honored, on behalf of the men and women of the United States Navy, to be named the Grand Marshal for the Food City Dirt Race. As someone who has spent his entire career among high performing organizations in the military, I’m excited to see these race teams in action up close and personal, and it is even more special because I’ll be joined by my brothers and sisters in uniform for this experience. We are very grateful to Food City, Bristol Motor Speedway, and NASCAR for this incredible opportunity, and are looking forward to race weekend!”
A native of Syracuse, New York, Rear Admiral Jackson graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993 and holds a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. Rear Admiral Jackson has spent the majority of his 30-year career as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer, and currently serves as the Deputy Director of the Operations and Integration Directorate at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. In addition to his role as the Deputy Director, Rear Admiral Jackson is one of two Admirals who lead the Navy EOD community. He oversees the development and community health of over 1,500 EOD officers and technicians that deploy worldwide.
Cup Series driver milestone starts to watch for
Over the next few races two drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series will reach milestones starts if they continue to run fulltime in the series.
Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt on April 9, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch will be making his 650th NASCAR Cup Series career start. Busch will become the 27th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 650 or more starts. Only one driver all-time has won on their 650th career NASCAR Cup Series start, and it was NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty at Dover Motor Speedway on Sept. 15, 1974.
Then at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick will be making his 800th career NASCAR Cup Series career start. Harvick will become just the 10th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 800 or more starts in the series. Only one driver all-time has won on their 800th career NASCAR Cup Series start, and it was NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty at Dover Motor Speedway on Sept. 16, 1979.
(NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report)