NASCAR Track Gets Dirty

NASCAR runs its events on asphalt. Many tracks (such as those at Talladega, Charlotte and Las Vegas) have companion dirt tracks nearby. One of the major tracks on the NASCAR schedule, the Bristol Motor Speedway, actually coated itself in clay in 2000 to host the DIRT Late Models and World of Outlaws Sprint Cars events.

Dirt Racing Tracks

­Dirt-racing tracks are located all over the country. While the season typically starts in March and runs through October, sanctioned and unsanctioned races can run into late December and January.

­Just as dirt-racing cars come in a wide range of configurations, so do the tracks on which they race. Dirt tracks come in the following lengths: quarter-mile (.4 km), three-eighth mile (.6 km), one-third mile (.5 km), half-mile (.8 km) and even one-mile (1.6 km). Paved ovals are typically much longer.

Smaller tracks are usually banked. Cars racing on flat, one-mile ovals, such as the DuQuoin and the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, average more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) per hour [source: Holder].

During the racing season, weather permitting, tracks offer regular Friday night and Saturday races. Excessive rain will cause tracks to close if the track can't adequately dry out by race time. Most dirt tracks are made of clay; water is sprayed on the track to maintain a level of "tackiness." Packed down by cars, the tracks continually change and are not always smooth. Occasionally, car parts have been known to go airborne. There's nothing like a muffler in the grandstand to add some excitement [source: Zeller]!

Dirt tracks are much easier on tires. Most dirt teams will need only two or three sets of tires a season; compared to a car racing on asphalt, which can use up a set of four tires in a single race.

Sometimes, drivers find that there's more than clay on the track. For example, if horses race on the same track, they leave behind debris and other material. Since the cars lack windshields, drivers find their helmet visors useful in protecting them from flying mud, bugs and horse excrement.

Ready to start your own engine? Tracks are listed online by state, and schedules of some 2009 races around the country are also available on the Internet. As one racing prompter says, "Dirt is for real racing and asphalt is just for getting there" [source: Speedways Online].

To learn more, visit some of the links on the following page.