A history of the NASCAR Cup Series on dirt

Bristol Dirt Uts

This story originally appeared on NASCAR.com on Sept. 30, 2020:

Bristol Motor Speedway announced Wednesday afternoon that the NASCAR Cup Series spring race at the short track will be contested on dirt. It will be the first premier series event on a dirt track in more than 50 years.

NASCAR historian Ken Martin presents a history of dirt at NASCAR’s top level:

There were 489 NASCAR Cup Series races held on dirt between June 19, 1949, and Sept. 30, 1970.

The first race in NASCAR premier series history was on dirt on June 19, 1949, at the .75-mile track known as Charlotte Speedway. Jim Roper was the winner.

In the 1949 season seven of the eight tracks competed on were dirt. The only pavement was at the Daytona Beach and Road course.

Seventy-six different drivers won on dirt, with Lee Petty holding the all-time record of 42 wins.

Rank Driver Wins
1 Lee Petty 42
2 Buck Baker 40
3 Herb Thomas 40
4 Tim Flock 36
5 Ned Jarrett 33
6 Richard Petty 30
7 Junior Johnson 23
8 David Pearson 23
9 Speedy Thompson 17
10 Fonty Flock 15

The top eight drivers on the above list are members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

In 1955 and 1956 NASCAR held 40 premier series events on dirt, the most of any seasons.

On Sept. 30, 1970, NASCAR held its final/most recent Cup Series race on dirt at the half-mile North Carolina State Fairgrounds track in Raleigh, North Carolina. Richard Petty won driving a Plymouth owned by Don Robertson.

Among the top-10 finishers still alive from that race: Petty (first), Neil Castles (second), Bobby Allison (sixth) and Dave Marcis (seventh).

There were three dirt track races in 1970 – two at Columbia Speedway (SC) and Raleigh. Richard Petty won the first race at Columbia, Bobby Isaac the second.

Richard Petty’s first career win came on dirt on Feb. 2, 1960, on the half-mile Southern States Fairgrounds track at Charlotte.

RELATED: Richard Petty’s career highlights

When Hershel McGriff competed in his final premier series event at Sears Point on May 16, 1993, he was the last driver with a dirt track win at NASCAR’s top level to compete.

When Dave Marcis competed in his final race at the 2002 Daytona 500, he was the last premier series driver to have competed on dirt in a Cup Series race.

The largest dirt track the series ever raced on was the 1.5 banked Memphis-Arkansas Speedway at LeHi, Arkansas. Five races were held from 1954-1957. Junior Johnson was the pole winner and Buck Baker was the winner the inaugural race in 1954.

The fastest Cup Series race ever on dirt came on March 14, 1965, when Ned Jarrett won the 150-mile race at the Orange Speedway in Hillsboro, North Carolina, at an average of 90.633 mph.

NASCAR returned to dirt in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series back in 2013 with an event at Eldora Speedway. The half-banked Ohio oval owned by Tony Stewart hosted Gander Trucks races from 2013-19, with this year’s scheduled event being realigned to another track due to the COVID-19 outbreak.