BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR's hyped return to dirt is instead a muddy mess on hold at least until Monday.
Torrential rains flooded campgrounds and parking lots surrounding Bristol Motor Speedway and created a rut for NASCAR far deeper than anything the Cup Series drivers encountered on the track.
NASCAR canceled all Sunday activity because even if Bristol's converted dirt track could eventually be readied for night racing, the entire facility was a swampy mess. Grandstand seats that had been covered in dust were caked in mud, while pit road and the apron around the 0.533-mile bullring held several inches of standing water.
After 2 1/2 inches of rain fell across “Thunder Valley,” NASCAR made an atypical decision to call an early washout. The first Cup Series race on dirt since 1970 was rescheduled for 4 p.m. Monday; trucks were set to run at noon.
Somewhere, Tony Stewart likely was having a hearty laugh at Bristol's expense.
Stewart successfully hosted seven Truck Series races at his Eldora Speedway dirt track in Ohio, but when Fox asked NASCAR to put a dirt event on the Cup schedule, the date instead went to the concrete bullring at Bristol. An incensed Stewart declined to bring the Trucks back to Eldora this year out of spite and has sat back and watched from afar as Bristol attempted to tackle the challenges of a dirt race.
He openly fretted that a bad show at Bristol would damage the future of NASCAR dirt racing — and NASCAR itself seemed to admit it was a valid concern.
“We need this show to be great," Scott Miller, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said Saturday.