NASCAR legend Richard Petty is not happy about the sport's return to dirt
NASCAR is struggling after what was supposed to be a historic weekend at Bristol had to be postponed for two straight days. On Saturday itself, it was apparent that the show could not go on after the Truck Series drivers returned to the pits after running just one lap on the track. The grills and windshields of the trucks were caked with mud as a result of the heavy rain earlier in the day.
NASCAR postponed the action until Sunday but that plan was scuppered as well by even more rain, this time resulting in record flooding at the track which not only made it unusable but dangerous for spectators.
The races were then pushed to 4 p.m. on Monday where it tentatively sits, based on what turn the weather might take next.
NASCAR wanted to give fans their first Cup Series dirt race in 50 years but ended up with one of the biggest disasters in modern-day sports history. While the series can't be blamed for the weather, they should have prepared for this in advance and put better contingency plans in place.
Amid all this, seven-time Cup Series champion Richard Petty is also against the the series' return to dirt. During an interview with Autoweek last October, he called NASCAR's attempt at nostalgia amateurish and not in the right direction for the sport.
“I have to be careful here,” Petty told Autoweek, “because there’s some politics involved, and I don’t want to annihilate NASCAR on this. I guess I’m looking at it from an old-time deal because we spent years and years and years trying to become a professional sport. Years and years to get away from that stigma. But dirt-track racing is not professional, so we’re going backward. It would be like taking a professional football team and going back to play at a high school field.”
So there we have it; NASCAR's biggest ambassador doesn't like the idea of dirt racing in 2021. Keep in mind that many of Petty's record 200 career wins came on dirt tracks around the south. The man who built his career on the loose stuff and excelled on asphalt went on to say:
"I think it’ll be exciting in Bristol that day. It might be another gimmick. It might be what NASCAR needs to keep our base growing. But it won’t be anything like the dirt track we had at Raleigh. In that one, there were big holes in the track and it was rough and you had to drive around those holes. The dirt tracks today turn into asphalt tracks; once you race on ‘em a while, they just turn into slick asphalt tracks. But cars will be going sideways in the corners, and that’s what people want to see."
Petty's response will come as a surprise, given his career spanned the better part of the "good ol' days" that most NASCAR fans want the sport to return to. It also underscores NASCAR's desperation to appease fans, and at times like these, they come off as being solely focused on the next gimmick to retain interest amid a time of plummeting television ratings.