March 2021: Inside the Garage, Ford Performance, Doing It In The Dirt

Ford Performance Knows Dirt, the Blue Oval's NASCAR Dirt Track History

Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN — March 27, 2021

It has been 50 years since the NASCAR Cup Series held a race on a dirt track. Richard Petty won at the half-mile North Carolina State Fairgrounds track on September 30, 1970. While the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has raced at Eldora Speedway in the Eldora Dirt Derby since 2013, the Cup cars have stuck to asphalt and concrete.

Bristol Motor Speedway has been transformed into a dirt track with 23,000 yards of dirt having been trucked into the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” this winter. The 0.533-mile facility, “The Last Great Colosseum,” has been transformed from a concrete oval banked at 30-degrees to a red-clay “Bullring” with 19 degrees of banking.


In true “Saturday Night Racing” fashion the Cup cars will take to the track with four Bush’s Beans qualifying races of 15 laps each that will determine the lineup for Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race.

Bristol In Dirt / Lasco Press Photo

Ford’s NASCAR Dirt History

We thought it might be interesting to look back half a century and see how Ford Performance faired during those early years of NASCAR Dirt Racing.

Ford has 100 all-time dirt wins by 29 different drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1955-1969. NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, who is Ford’s all-time leader in Cup wins with 43, also holds the record for most dirt wins for the manufacturer with 26. Fellow Hall of Famers, Junior Johnson, and Fireball Roberts are next on the list with 11 and 10 wins, respectively.

Ned Jarrett, circa 1959 / NASCAR Photo

All Time Ford NASCAR Cup Series Dirt Wins:

Ned Jarrett (26), Junior Johnson (11), Fireball Roberts (10), Dick Hutcherson (8), Curtis Turner (4), Marvin Panch (4), Ralph Moody (4), David Pearson (3), Paul Goldsmith (3), Eddie Gray (3), Joe Weatherly (3), Parnelli Jones (2), Eddie Pagan (2), Speedy Thompson (2), Tom Pistone (1), Buck Baker (1), Lloyd Dane (1), Bill Amick (1), Marvin Porter (1), Shorty Rollins (1), Johnny Beauchamp (1), Cotton Owens (1), John Rostek (1), Fred Lorenzen (1), Jimmy Pardue (1), Tiny Lund (1), Cale Yarborough (1), Darel Dieringer (1), Elmo Langley (1).


Ford’s first win on dirt in what is now known as the NASCAR Cup Series came on Oct. 9, 1955, when Speedy Thompson won a 250-lap feature on the 1.5-mile Memphis-Arkansas Speedway in LeHi, Arkansas. Thompson, driving a 1955 Ford, started 10th before he eventually passed leader Tim Flock on lap 43 and never gave it up.

Thompson led the final 158 circuits as he and Marvin Panch were the only two drivers to end up on the lead lap, giving Ford a one-two finish and its first victory in the Grand National Series since Shirtless Jimmy Florian won the manufacturer’s first race in 1950.

And Last

NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson registered three Ford wins on dirt, including the manufacturer’s last one on June 26, 1969.  The race, which was held on a half-mile dirt track in Raleigh at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, saw Pearson dominate.

Pearson led 182-of-200 laps and beat Richard Petty, who finished second in a Ford, by three laps.  That marked Pearson’s final year driving the full schedule, which ended with him winning a second straight championship.

Eldora’s Prelude to the Dream

The Prelude to the Dream was a dirt late model race held at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio from 2005 to 2012. It was a pay-per-view event on HBO, and frequently attracted drivers from various disciplines such as NASCAR, IndyCar Series, NHRA, and World of Outlaws. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Four current Ford drivers competed in the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway from 2005-2012.  Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, and Joey Logano all competed multiple times in the exhibition event with their yearly results included below:

2005 – Kevin Harvick (P12)

2006 – Aric Almirola (P10), Ryan Newman (P14)

2007 – Aric Almirola (P11), Kevin Harvick (P14), Ryan Newman (P18)

2008 – Kevin Harvick (P7), Ryan Newman (P12), Aric Almirola (P19)

2009 – Ryan Newman (P4), Aric Almirola (P8), Kevin Harvick (P11), Joey Logano (P20)

2010 – Joey Logano (P13), Aric Almirola (P14), Ryan Newman (P16)

2011 – Aric Almirola (P3), Ryan Newman (P9)

2012 – Ryan Newman (P5), Aric Almirola (P6)

What It Looks Like