PLAYING IN THE DIRT

NASCAR sanctions the first stock car dirt race in over 50 years.

The number 88 Dodge Challenger speeds around the track at the Goodwood Festival of Speed race in 1998.

PC: Creative Commons

The number 88 Dodge Challenger speeds around the track at the Goodwood Festival of Speed race in 1998.

Nathan Feller, Sports Editor/Reporter

For the first time in 51 years, NASCAR held a race on Bristol Motor Speedway’s 250 laps and 133.25 miles of dirt; March 29 marked this nostalgic day for the NASCAR community. 

Since Feb. 21, 1948, according to an article by History.com, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing has been the official organization for stock car racers across the country. But before the organization, rules and … legality, adrenaline junky drivers put their skills to work behind the wheel to shine in a less than lawful way. From 1920-1933 bootlegging moonshine across an “alcohol free” United States was a popular pastime and brought a whole new meaning to the the phrase “booze cruising” for those who enjoyed going fast and catching a buzz. Of course a common side effect of all that high speed cargo smuggling and police evading is an extraordinary ability to drive fast and not die.

When prohibition was finally lifted in 1933, bootleggers and moonshiners were forced into retirement and quickly grew bored. It was soon discovered that folks were fascinated by what ex-bootleggers could do behind the wheel and were more than willing to open their pocket books to watch the drivers show off.

Over the next few years, ex-moonshiners testing their luck as booze delivery boys became competitors on the track; racing at county fairs and local tracks became their new careers. And in 1948 a legitimate organization was founded by Bill France. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing exploded with popularity as more racers looked to go pro and folks from across the country flocked to the races.

As the decades passed, NASCAR was modernized along with the rest of the world; new rules and regulations were constantly being introduced in hopes of making the high risk automotive sport safer for the drivers. And on Sep. 30 1970, according to an article on the NASCAR website, the last NASCAR sanctioned dirt race was run in Raleigh, North Carolina; from that point on the stock car races belonged on the asphalt. 

51 years later, interest in the Off Road Truck series is steadily rising and NASCAR decided to test their luck and sanction a stock car race in the dirt.

Man, it’s incredible,” Bristol race winner , Joey Logano, said in an NBC Sports article. “[It] was an unbelievable racetrack.”

The drivers were excited to play in the dirt and the fans felt the same way about watching a dirty race like in the “good ol’ days”.

“It’s fun to see them race on dirt,” sophomore NASCAR fan, Kobus Diver, said. “

It’s not just who can go the fastest anymore, its who’s the best driver.”

— Kobus Diver

NASCAR plans to give the people what they want next season and bring back dirt track races in the 2022 season.

“There has been so much buzz and excitement around the inaugural Food City Dirt Race weekend that with NASCAR’s blessing, we are thrilled to announce that we will be bringing back dirt in 2022 as part of the NASCAR Cup Series spring schedule,” Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, said in an interview with NASCAR. “The dirt experience is unlike any other for NASCAR fans and could become a must-see event every season.”

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