BRISTOL, Tennessee. (AP) – For the first time in 15 years, Martin Trux Jr. entered a series of truck races just to get extra laps on a dirt surface on the Bristol Motor Speedway.
That reconnaissance mission turned into a runaway victory for Truex, which dominated the race on Monday afternoon, then quickly turned its attention to the main event.
The first race in the NASCAR Cup Series on the Dirty Line was postponed to a day when torrential rains flooded Bristol parking lots, campgrounds, and doubled over on Monday. Truex was one of seven cup drivers who entered the truck opener trying to learn how to compete on the surface.
Bristol is a 0.533-mile concrete bullfight covered with three layers of Tennessee red clay in an attempt by NASCAR to add versatility to its schedule. The line of trucks ran on the dirt seven times in Eldora Speedway, Ohio, but it had been 50 years since NASCAR’s elite fell into the mud.
Truex, which drove a single truck race in both 2005 and 2006, had almost no dirty experience before Bristol. He led 105 of the 150 laps, won all three rounds, with regular series winners Ben Rhodes, Rafael Lesard and Todd Gillland winning.
Chase Briscoe finished fourth in the Cup, a newcomer to the dirty race.
Truex won over Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports, giving it the third consecutive victory.
The remodeled surface has been a challenge since Friday, when dense dust began rolling through Bristol Stadium during a four-hour training session. Drivers said it obscured their visibility, but the Goodyear tires on the cup cars were a bigger problem.
The tires were fading toward the wires as the weight of the cars seemed to dig deep into the dirt track. The rain on Saturday made the preparations difficult.
The trucks were sent outside to start a heat race on the slope. Mud’s pieces completely covered the windshield, the front grilles of the trucks soared after just one turn, and the seat was stopped. It started raining again and did not stop for about 24 hours.
All that water soaked into the dirty surface, in fact, created better racing conditions. Although the truck race was slowed down by 14 warnings, some of them could be attributed to a lack of driver experience on the ground instead of surface problems.
As soon as Truex took the flagpole, the Bristol crew set to work preparing the way for the cup race.
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