Christopher Bell: Virtual Bristol dirt track 'not realistic'

The kickoff of the 2021 eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series offered a sneak peak at what Cup Series drivers could face this weekend at the Bristol Dirt Track, or did it?

Listen to this article

Wednesday night was the start of this season’s 10-race sim racing series among NASCAR drivers and the first event was held on the virtual dirt track created at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Despite the inclusion of several drivers with extensive and successful dirt racing backgrounds, the feature event was won again by one of the best drivers in the virtual world, William Byron.

This weekend’s Truck and Cup races on the dirt surface won’t be the typical dirt racing seen around the country, but how well did Wednesday night’s race represent what drivers will face at Bristol?

Not the best practice

Not very well, said Christopher Bell, in his second fulltime season as a Cup driver and whose career before NASCAR was dominated by racing – and winning – on dirt.

“As far as (Wednesday’s event) being realistic, I just don’t see it. We saw the track was really heavy on the simulator and if we get those conditions in real life, we’re not going to be able to see because the windshields will be mudded up,” Bell said.

“The radiators are going to be mudded up and we’re not going to be able to get air flow to the engines. We can’t have those conditions. Then, if it gets super dry, it’s going to be really dusty.

“I don’t think the track conditions were realistic, what we had, but I think some of the tendencies might be similar.”

One of biggest similarities is likely to be the drivers’ repeated sawing back and forth on the steering wheel. It was evident watching drivers compete in their respective simulators and Bell says the same will be true this weekend.

“Dirt racing with these stock cars, you have to really hustle them around the race track. Eldora was a very similar way – you’re far-left to far-right and eight times back-and-forth throughout the corner,” he explained.

“It’s just a matter of who’s going to be able to repeat that the most and do the best job of being consistent throughout the course of the race. I think that’s going to be the hardest part.

“All of our crew chiefs (at Joe Gibbs Racing) know that we’re going to be back-and-forth on the wheel a lot more so the steering will probably be a little bit softer than what they would be at normal Bristol. I think the crew chiefs will help us out making the steering softer.”

A rainy weekend?

The biggest variable over which no team will have control this weekend will be the weather. There is a significant chance of rain both Saturday and Sunday in the Bristol area.

While NASCAR events aren’t typically run in the rain (except road course events), the only “track prep” associated with bad weather is usually drying off the asphalt or concrete surface.

A dirt surface produces a slew of other concerns depending on how hard it rains, how long it lasts and how much water ends up mixed into the dirt surface.

“I’m all for having a little bit of water in the dirt to make it a more true dirt track than what maybe we’re anticipating,” Bell said. “On the flip side, if the dirt has too much water content in it, either, ‘A,’ the track starts getting rough, or ‘B,’ our windshields get mudded up.

“Our windshields get mudded up, the front of our cars get mudded up and the engines are going to get hot. They’re walking a very fine line on how much water content can be in the dirt.”

In the end, Bell hopes the Cup Series’ first race on dirt in more than 50 years will be a success.

“A great finish is necessary for it to be considered a great race and we know it’s going to be a full field and we know there’s going to be bumping and banging,” he said.

And what would a bad race look like?

Bell didn’t mince words: “A demo derby with a lot of yellow flags.”

shares
comments

Related video

Kyle Busch offers his advice to 'fiery' Noah Gragson
Previous article

Kyle Busch offers his advice to 'fiery' Noah Gragson

Next article

Alex Bowman leads first Cup practice on Bristol dirt

Alex Bowman leads first Cup practice on Bristol dirt
Load comments
The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team Prime

The ex-F1 driver taking on NASCAR with a new team

Saddled with uncompetitive Minardi machinery, Tarso Marques didn't manage to score points in his three partial seasons of Formula 1. But now the Brazilian has the chance to show what he can do in NASCAR, and explains the story of his comeback with new Cup Series entrant Team Stange

NASCAR Cup
Apr 13, 2022
The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car Prime

The early benefits and challenges of NASCAR's Next Gen car

NASCAR’s new stock car generation is encouraging an influx of fresh blood into its top tier. But there are concerns that parts are in short supply as the entire paddock tries to build up stocks at the same time

NASCAR Cup
Feb 22, 2022
How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style Prime

How Penske's rookie sensation opened NASCAR's new era in style

After holding his nerve and hip-checking his teammate on the run to the line, Austin Cindric made a perfect start to life as a full-timer in the NASCAR Cup Series by winning the Daytona 500. Here's how the Penske Ford man emerged first across the line in the first points-scoring race for the much-anticipated Next Generation cars

NASCAR Cup
Feb 21, 2022
Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season Prime

Six key themes to follow in the 2022 NASCAR Cup season

There are plenty of uncertainties ahead of the 2022 NASCAR Cup season as an all-new fleet of cars take to the track for the first time. Ahead of this weekend's Daytona 500, our experts explain what you need to know

NASCAR Cup
Feb 17, 2022
How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival Prime

How NASCAR had to learn a harsh lesson ahead of Next Gen arrival

The NASCAR Cup kicks off with the Daytona 500 this weekend, but a major engine overhaul and a subsequent mountain of work has been required to be ready for the arrival of the Next Gen cars.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2022
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021