As the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway this weekend, a few things will be happening that haven’t been often seen in the 74-year history of NASCAR. First, the half-mile, high-banked, concrete oval is currently covered with dirt as NASCAR’s top series is set to compete on a dirt surface for only the second time in 50 years with the Food City Dirt race returning to Bristol for the second consecutive year.
Second, NASCAR’s top series will be racing on Easter for just the 12th time in its history and the first time since Rusty Wallace brought home the victory at Richmond (Va.) Raceway on Easter Sunday 1989. Interestingly enough, the first Cup Series race held on Easter was in 1953 and also was held on a dirt track. Dick Passwater brought home that win on a .75-mile dirt track named Charlotte Speedway, which was located off Little Rock Road just south of what now is the Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas Airport.
This year, while race fans enjoy the contents of their Easter baskets, many of which likely featuring M&M’S candies, they can settle in to watch the latest M&M’S creation, M&M’S Crunchy Cookie make its way around the Bristol oval Sunday evening when Kyle Busch drives his No. 18 M&M’S Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the 250-lap event.
For the third race in a row, M&M’S Crunchy Cookie will be adorning his No. 18 Toyota at Bristol on Sunday night. M&M’S Crunchy Cookie combines two favorite treats – M&M’S and chocolate chip cookies – and is now available nationwide. It’s bound to give race fans a fun, nostalgic snack to enjoy during this weekend’s race. M&M’S is also partnering with a cool cookie creator, Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, to create 100, one-time-only, limited-edition cookies that will be made available to race fans on a first-come, first-served basis. Fans can sign up at MMS.com to find out when they’ll drop.
While Busch has mostly a pavement racing background, he’s not a complete stranger to dirt-track racing. While he did run some Dwarf cars, Legends cars, and even Modifieds on dirt as a kid growing up, he didn’t get back to the dirt until he participated in the Prelude to the Dream Dirt Super Late Model charity event from 2007 through 2012 at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. In the final Prelude to the Dream event in 2012, Busch broke through and won against a strong field of competitors in a car prepared by Dirt Super Late Model stalwart Scott Bloomquist.
Busch has eight career Cup Series wins at Bristol, albeit on the concrete surface, so he’s looking to add a different kind of win to his already bulky Bristol resume. So, as the Cup Series heads back to the dirt for just the second time since 1970 and only the 12th time ever on Easter Sunday, Busch will hope for more than an Easter egg, aiming for a strong run Sunday night at a place where he’s had a lot of success over the years, albeit on a much difference surface.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Crunchy Cookie Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What is your outlook on the dirt at Bristol?
“For me, I didn’t grow up racing just on dirt like some of these guys – Kyle (Larson) and Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) – but I did race dirt when I was a kid. I raced Legend cars, Modifieds, all on dirt, and then pavement ever since. I did run the Super Late Models on dirt with the Prelude races that Tony (Stewart) had years ago. I was able to finish first, second, third in a few of those, so it was pretty fun. Those cars are made for dirt. Every time people ask, ‘Why wouldn’t you race a truck (at Eldora)’ – these things are just so heavy, and the tire is not at all conducive to producing grip. It’s the Cup Series, so we will go out there and give it everything we’ve got and see what we can do. It’s just going to be about learning what we can, and the differences between what we had last year and this new car, as well. These vehicles are so much different than what you would normally race on dirt. We’ll do what we can to get a good run with our M&M’S Crunchy Cookie Camry TRD.”
Do the drivers with dirt experience have an advantage?
“The dirt guys, I would say, definitely have an advantage. The more experience you have on dirt, the more trust you have in what the vehicle can do on dirt and what your driving style is, or what your driving technique can be, and how you can trust the grip level that the dirt has versus what your car has. I think there are a lot of things the dirt guys can really pick up on. You always see in those truck races the guys who are good at it, that put some time into it, are better than the ones that do not. I can’t name them all, but (Kyle) Larson, Christopher (Bell), (Tyler) Reddick, even Bubba (Wallace). Bubba never really had any dirt experience, but he did a good job in the Eldora race for us. Those guys will shine, and I think they will be faster during points of the weekend, but I think it’s all going to be circumstantial on how it comes down to the end and what exactly happens toward the finish.”
Did Joe Gibbs Racing lean on the dirt experience of Kyle Busch Motorsports last year at Bristol?
“Definitely. We were an open book as far as all the experiences that we had with Eldora and the races that we’d run on dirt over there. Setup stuff, I don’t know how much of that can be the same, but definitely some of the pieces and components, and the things that we would do in order to prepare for the dirt race. One of them is as simple as just knowing that you need a Swiffer in your car. The cars build enough dust and dirt and there’s enough static electricity on the windshield, the plexiglass, that it will pick up and keep the dirt on the inside of the windows, so you need something to clean off the windows under yellow. It’s just little stuff like that, that I think is imperative to your success at the Bristol dirt race.”