CONCORD, N.C. -- Cliff Daniels is soaking up any and all information when it comes to the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The crew chief of the No. 5 team has always stayed true to studying his notes and doing his homework before a race. However, when that race is a first-time event on a modified dirt track, Daniels has had to get creative to ensure he, driver Kyle Larson and the rest of their teammates are as prepared as possible.
“We are taking in information from every source we can possibly get it,” Daniels said. “Kyle’s dirt experience and what has made him so strong in so many different types of cars at the dirt tracks is his ability to read a track and understand where it’s tacky, where it’s moist as the track changes. When it takes rubber, when it’s dusty, things like that.
“That’s definitely going to be an advantage that he has over some of the other drivers, but we won’t know that until the moment. So, we won’t know exactly what the track surface is going to be like until we go to practice.”
However, Daniels knows practice runs on the dirt track won’t be an indication as to how the Cup cars will run on Sunday. Each Cup car weighs 3,400 pounds and dozens of cars running the track on Friday and Saturday for practice and qualifying will change the nature of the dirt track before the race.
Daniels said this is where he will lean on Larson. The 28-year-old driver’s dirt background is well known; he won a whopping 46 events on dirt tracks in 2020 and secured his second Chili Bowl Nationals title in a row in January. However, Larson’s dirt experiences were run in lighter midget, sprint and NASCAR Truck Series vehicles.
“The tricky part is going to be how to apply it to our heavy stock cars,” Daniels said. “We’ve never done this before. The trucks at Eldora (Speedway) definitely paint a little bit of a picture for what we need to look for, and (No. 24 crew chief) Rudy (Fugle’s) experience is going to help us with that. But still, having the high horsepower of the Cup cars and the aero package that we have leaves so many unknowns.”
For fans who don’t know what to expect during a Cup Series dirt race, Daniels has some guesses. He said viewers should be able to see the track progression in real time and how each change affects how a driver handles his stock car.
“There’s some dirt tracks that can actually turn black appearing because they take so much rubber,” Daniels explained. “The cool thing about that, and hopefully we get to experience it, is just going to be the change and the evolution of the track where, I think, a guy like Kyle is going to adapt well to that and know how to read that.
“That’s going to be cool for the fans to see, I think, as the track evolves, and it’s going to be new to us to learn to adapt to that. You’ll have some drivers on the field who will have a natural knack for it. It’s going to be cool to see the progression of it.”
Daniels isn’t just studying the track to prepare for Sunday’s inaugural race. The No. 5 crew chief will be packing some extra items for the race, as well.
“I’m going to have my coveralls, my mud boots that I wear around my property at home,” Daniels joked. “I will be ready to get down and dirty.”
The dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway will begin Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.