Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: The Truck Series’ Return to Bristol Dirt

This weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for its second race on the dirt surface created on the half-mile bullring.

To say its inaugural event was a bit of a nightmare would be an understatement. Torrential rains wreaked havoc on the track surface and led to a disastrous attempt at holding the qualifying races, which included mud caked on the windshields.

Ultimately, qualifying was canceled and the race was postponed until Monday, and simply put, this race had it all: beating, banging, tempers flaring. But what it also had was a ton of engineering and thought put into creating a track surface that ultimately presented an intriguing race and was a welcome return to dirt after losing the series’ lone race at Eldora Speedway due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This weekend’s entry list features 38 trucks for 36 positions for the 150-lap Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt.

See also
Entry List: 2022 Pinty's Truck Race on Dirt

Instead of traditional qualifying laps, the field will be set using a series of qualifying races Saturday afternoon (April 16) before the feature race. After a random draw to set the qualifying races, drivers will participate in one of four heat races, each of which will run just 15 laps. Only green flag laps will count but there will be no overtime finishes.

Points will be awarded based on finishing position and the difference between their starting and finishing spots in each heat race. Points will not be deducted for a driver who finishes lower than where they started. The first 31 spots will be set by that formula with 32nd through 36th reserved for provisionals.

Along with a different qualifying format, there will also be a different racing format. While the stages will continue (40, 50 and 60 laps, respectively), the field will be frozen for stage breaks where teams will be able to perform traditional pit stop duties. Unless otherwise specified by NASCAR, teams will not be allowed to change tires or add fuel outside of those breaks.

Of course, racing on dirt also means a few different faces trying to make the field. For the second year in a row, Jessica Friesen looks to join husband Stewart Friesen in the field. While she was scheduled to run this race last season, the rained out qualifying races left her sitting on the sidelines (the pair did race together later in the season at Knoxville Raceway).

Meanwhile, dirt track standout Buddy Kofoid prepares for his Truck Series debut. Tapped by Kyle Busch Motorsports to pilot the No. 51 Toyota Martin Truex Jr. won this race in last year, the 20-year-old will also have Mardy Lindley atop the pit box. After winning the 2021 USAC Midget National Championships, Kofoid already has two wins in three races of the Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget schedule and boasts a victory over Kyle Larson in the Chili Bowl Nationals held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And while Kofoid enters the weekend with zero NASCAR experience, four Cup drivers are scheduled to run double duty. David Gilliland Racing will field the Nos. 17 and 54 for Harrison Burton and Joey Logano, respectively.

For Burton, it will be his first Truck Series start since the end of the 2019 season when he moved to the Xfinity Series for two years before making the jump to the NASCAR Cup Series this year. It’s an opportunity for the Cup rookie to get some extra track time ahead of Sunday’s race.

Meanwhile, Logano won the inaugural Cup Series race on the Bristol dirt surface last season and will be making just his eighth Truck Series start and his first since 2015. In his seven prior series starts, Logano boasts four top fives, including a victory at Martinsville Speedway his last time out with Brad Keselowski Racing.

Just a week removed from William Byron‘s victory at Martinsville Speedway, Spire Motorsports will again field the No. 7 Chevrolet, this time with Chase Elliott behind the wheel. His lone Truck Series start last season at Texas Motor Speedway ended in a runner-up finish with GMS Racing. Elliott has just 16 career Truck Series starts with three wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s.

See also
Austin Dillon to Compete for Young’s in Truck Race at Bristol Dirt

Additionally, Austin Dillon makes his first Truck Series start since 2019 behind the wheel of the No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet, which has been fielded for a variety of drivers already this season. Dillon does have a dirt track victory in a truck in the series’ 2013 visit to Eldora Speedway. Alongside Dillon at Young’s, Kaz Grala has been tapped to pilot the No. 02 Chevrolet for one of his 11 scheduled starts this season.

For the first time this season, Norm Benning will attempt to make the race behind the wheel of his self-owned No. 6 Chevrolet. Of course, who can forget his valiant effort to muscle his way into the feature at Eldora Speedway in 2013?

Though he isn’t running the Truck Series race this weekend, Kyle Larson did give some insight into how the track surface compares this year to last year’s version after running a late model race there a few weeks ago.

With some rain in the forecast over the next few days, including on Saturday, it’s worth watching whether this weekend sees some positive changes over the spectacle the mud show was last season when attempting the qualify. The good news is that once the weather turned clearer by Monday, the Truck Series did put on one heck of a show and I’d expect more of the same this weekend.

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