Blaney: No Bristol Dirt comparison from 2021 to 2022

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - APRIL 15: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford, drives during first practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 15, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

To hear Ryan Blaney tell it, there’s not a lot of continuity between the Food City Dirt Race from 2021 and the one scheduled this year on Easter Sunday (7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the first place, this year’s event will take place at night, rather than during daylight hours. And Sunday’s race also will feature NASCAR’s Next Gen Cup Series race car, which has features that weren’t part of the Gen 6 version that raced in 2021—including a five-speed sequential transmission, rack-and-pinion steering and an independent rear suspension.

Accordingly, the notebooks drivers and crew chiefs built last year won’t have a great degree of relevance when it comes to racing on Sunday night.

“The car is obviously different,” Blaney said on Friday during a question-and-answer session in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center. “The tire is way different. The tire is way better this year, honestly. It’s got way more grip, and you can actually drive it more, so I don’t know if you can compare much like car-to-car, setup-to-setup.

“But just knowing the trends of how the race went last year, maybe that applies to this year, so you try to look at the trends of the race track and all that. But the track is a lot smoother than what it was last year, so that’s nice. There’s not a lot you can compare.”

Blaney spun during the first qualifying heat on Saturday, finished sixth and will start 25th in Sunday’s race.