By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Heading into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Joey Logano is looking forward to defending his 2021 victory but his comments weren’t so upbeat when asked about racing on Easter Sunday.
“Ha, you’re hitting me a tricky one on. That one, umm, not a big fan of racing on Easter I’ll, I’ll just say it, you know I, I feel like that’s a very special day, a day that’s equally as big as Christmas, if not bigger, so I’m not crazy about it,” Logano said. “I also understand where it makes, you know, a lot of sense for a sport to do it, you know, so that I can see but it’s different than other sports. Uhm, you know when? When other sports compete on holidays, it’s a couple teams here and a couple teams there. This is 40 teams. I’m doing it and so. I gotta be honest, I’m not crazy about it.”
It was obvious Logano was walking a tight line because he didn’t want to come across as if he were criticizing the sanctioning body for scheduling the race and he did acquiesce, saying he’s “willing to give it a shot.”
Still, as he pointed out, this experiment is different than with other sports because it takes so many people to make the NASCAR circus work on a race weekend. From crew members and track workers to officials and fans to local law enforcement and even the media, it isn’t the same when you have to figure out logistics for hundreds of people on one of the biggest family holidays of the year.
“Maybe, it’s gonna be fantastic, it’s gonna be alright. I’ll have my family with me so that’s good, it’s going to be a lot different Easter than what we’re used to,” Logano continued. “But I also will say that our sport also does a good job and MRO (Motor Racing Outreach) does a nice job at, you know having something for the kids. Having a church service, you know, for industry. So, I think that that part is good but you know, that it’s good for us as drivers but it’s not as easy for, you know, the race team guys to have their families three-and-a-half hours away and have to get hotel rooms and all that, right?
“We get the luxury of having our bus there, right? And the things that come along with being a driver, right? And it’s great. We take advantage of that, but it’s not the same for everybody in our sport and as media members, you guys understand that, too, so, that’s where I’m at with it.”
Technically, it is not the first time that NASCAR has raced on Easter Sunday – it’s happened 11 times throughout history – but those races weren’t originally scheduled on Resurrection Sunday. Those races, most recently in 1989, occurred due to rescheduling for weather-related events. The 12th time comes after NASCAR announced its schedule for 2022 with the Bristol Dirt Race date.
When the move was announced in September 2021, Ben Kennedy, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Development and Strategy, said it was done to put the race under the lights and on prime-time television with FOX. He compared the call to other major sports, as Logano pointed to. It is another, of what many have seen as positive moves under Kennedy’s direction, to attract more fans and shake up what had become a somewhat predictive schedule over the years. Earlier this year, the decision to bring NASCAR to the Coliseum in Los Angeles was an overwhelming hit and fans have lauded several of the decisions about new tracks the series is heading to.
“When you think about all the other sports leagues with NFL on Thanksgiving, NBA on Christmas, this is our opportunity to run on Easter Sunday and drive a lot of momentum for our fans that are watching at home through FOX’s season and NBC’s season from start to finish,” Kennedy said when the schedule was originally announced. “We put a lot of consideration into that (family time). I think to that end, having it later in the day, and on prime time on Sunday, we want to make sure that for fans, families, team members, drivers, that they have the opportunity to celebrate earlier on in the day. Then for fans that may be tuning in at night or coming out to the track that evening, the ability to come out there and continue to be together and watch NASCAR racing we felt like was important. A big part of the calculus of that decision was making sure that that event was later on in the evening on that day.”
For its part, FOX is preparing a special day of programming and will even bring on Darrell Waltrip to provide updates and insight from the television booth. Waltrip announced his retirement from FOX during a press conference at Bristol in 2019 after 19 years with the network. His return, along with plans by FOX to broadcast the Easter Sunday services from the track, are just part of the plans FOX has this weekend.
“After a couple of seasons retired from the FOX booth, I’m really looking forward to being back up there with Mike (Joy) and now with Clint (Bowyer),” said Waltrip, three-time champion and the winningest driver at Bristol with 12 victories. “But I really feel sorry for Mike – he always had his hands full with me, but now he has double trouble with Bowyer and me. It will be a blast. I still watch every single race, and I am excited about seeing the new car on Bristol Dirt.”
According to a FOX press release, prior to the start of prerace programming, FS1 will televise Bristol Motor Speedway’s Easter celebration service from outside the stadium in the fan midway area. Pastor Max Lucado will deliver an Easter Sunday message, with musical performances by Grammy Award winner Chris Tomlin and Gary LeVox, former lead singer for Rascal Flatts. FS1’s hourlong coverage of the service also includes several poignant interviews and features with Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon and Regan Smith in which they and their families share their Easter traditions. A special feature with Speedway Motorsports Inc. President and COO Marcus Smith will air, and Coach Joe Gibbs and Waltrip also are part of the broadcast. The programming is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. CST and will move to the FOX primary network at 7 p.m. CST.