NASCAR will return to dirt racing for the first time since 1970 next year with a raft of new calendar changes confirmed for the 2021 season.
The Bristol Motor Speedway will be the venue for the first dirt race in over 50 years with 14,000 truckloads of dirt set to be sprinkled across the circuit.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule will feature an increase in road course races, new venues and a return to dirt.
The last Cup race on dirt was at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in 1970. Richard Petty won a 200-lap race on the half-mile track, earning $1,000 in prize money.
But by then dirt racing was already on the fringe of extinction. Up to 40 dirt races were run each season in the early days of NASCAR, with just three remaining by the time the ‘70s rolled around.
“Bristol Motor Speedway has hosted many historic events over the years and we will be adding to that resume,” Jerry Caldwell, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, said on Wednesday.
“This is returning to our roots in racing. We can’t wait to see how the stars of NASCAR take to the dirt.”
Other changes to the 2021 NASCAR calendar are a rise in the number of road courses.
Road America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Circuit of the Americas are new additions to the calendar, joining Sonoma, Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Roval.
COTA already hosts Formula 1, IndyCar and MotoGP races but has never staged a NASCAR event in its short history. Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart did drive the circuit in a demonstration last year which paved the way for the course to land a date on the series schedule.
“I’m grateful for Marcus Smith’s vision and determination to make this event possible,” said track CEO and Chairman Bobby Epstein.
“His teams in Charlotte and at Texas Motor Speedway have created a spirit of partnership that will make for a spectacular weekend of fun and competition. Speedway Motorsports, along with the leadership at NASCAR, have a ‘Fans First’ attitude and have responded to everyone who has long desired to see a Cup Series race at COTA.
“Fans who’ve been here before will witness stock car racing at its finest for the first time, and first-time visitors will be amazed at the views and friendly experience. It will be our pleasure to write another chapter of motorsports history alongside Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR in 2021.”
The Daytona 500 will open proceedings but is now followed by a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway instead of the usual Atlanta round.
Booted from the calendar are Chicagoland and Kentucky.