Harrison Burton and the No. 21 DEX Imaging team, along with their Cup Series peers, are set to spend the Easter weekend racing on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For the second-straight year, the high-banked, half-mile oval has been covered with red clay for a series of events, including this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race for the Cup Series.
Although racing on dirt is uncommon nowadays for the elite NASCAR series, Brian Wilson, crew chief on the DEX Imaging Mustang, is looking forward to the experience.
“Bristol on dirt will be a fun and great challenge,” Wilson said. “Harrison is really excited, and I know the team is as well.”
Burton and Wilson both are rookies with no previous experience racing Cup cars on clay, and they will be competing with a Next Gen Mustang that hasn’t been raced on dirt. But Wilson said he and the team won’t be without the benefit of experience.
“With our teammates through the Penske alliance we have strong notes to build from with [Joey] Logano’s win last year,” Wilson said. “We’ll work to adapt those notes to the Next Gen car in our two practice sessions and heat race to be prepared for the main event on Sunday.”
One of the challenges of dirt racing is anticipating how the clay will change as the track, which is watered prior to the races, dries out.
Last year’s race - and the practices and qualifying races this year - will be run in the daytime, but Sunday’s main event isn’t scheduled to start until after 7 p.m.
That which means a good bit of the main event will be run after the sun goes down.
Wilson said that will figure into his strategy.
“We expect that the night race will help keep some moisture in the track as the race goes on,” he said. “Adapting to those changing conditions is what dirt-track racing is all about, so that’s where our focus has been this week.”
Two practice sessions are set for Friday afternoon, the first beginning at 4:05 Eastern Time and the second at 6:35. TV coverage is on FOX Sports 1.
The four 15-lap qualifying races, which will set the starting line-up for Sunday, are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on Saturday and will air on FOX Sports 2.
The 250-lap main event is scheduled to get the green flag just after 7 p.m., with FOX carrying the broadcast.
Stage breaks are set for Laps 75 and 150.