The sanctioning body of stock car racing kicked off Wednesday, Sept. 15, by officially releasing the 2022 Cup Series schedule. An early version had surfaced the day prior courtesy of “The Athletic,” but NASCAR confirmed the list of tracks. One particular takeaway is that the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race will return.
The second annual race on the dirt track will take place on Easter Sunday (April 17). The drivers will head to the short track for a night race and will compete on the dirt under the lights. NASCAR has traditionally avoided racing on Easter, a solemn holiday that many families spend at church, but made the change for the 2022 season.
“We put a lot of consideration into that. I think to that end, having [the race] later in the day, and on prime time on Sunday, we want to make sure that for fans, families, team members, drivers, that they have the opportunity to celebrate earlier on in the day,” said Ben Kennedy, senior vice president of strategy and innovation, during a media availability.
“Then for fans that may be tuning in at night or coming out to the track that evening, the ability to come out there and continue to be together and watch NASCAR racing we felt like was important. A big part of the calculus of that decision was making sure that that event was later on in the evening on that day.”
NASCAR Will Aim To Avoid Weather-Related Issues
The Camping World Truck Series and the Cup Series drivers took on the dirt version of the short track for the first time during the 2021 season while contending with inclement weather. Heavy rainfall created mud on the track and flooded the campgrounds. NASCAR ultimately postponed both races amid the rain and flood warnings in Tennessee.
The issues surfaced during the heat races for the Truck Series drivers. Several headed out for the first of two races with the goal of setting the starting lineup but only completed one lap. The mud covered the grills and windshields of several vehicles, creating visibility issues and bringing out the red flag.
The pit crews continued to work on removing the mud from the vehicles during the red-flag conditions and made progress. However, rain began to fall once again, ruining the track surface and forcing NASCAR to postpone the races.
Cup Series Champions Locked Up Wins at Bristol
Once the weather turned, the NASCAR drivers had the opportunity to contend in their respective races at the Bristol dirt track. Two Cup Series champions turned in the best performances and added new trophies to their collections.
Martin Truex Jr. made his only Truck Series start of 2021 at Bristol and took over the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. He led 105 of the 150-lap event, winning all three stages and putting longtime sponsor Auto-Owners Insurance into Victory Lane.
Joey Logano took care of business during the Cup Series race at Bristol. He completed 250 laps at the short track, leading 61, while avoiding incidents that sent Aric Almirola and several other drivers to the garage early. Logano held off Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Daniel Suarez to reach Victory Lane and secure his spot in the playoffs.