BRISTOL, Virginia – After shoveling dirt at one of the country’s most famous sporting venues, Michael Waltrip was in the Tri-Cities to celebrate the New Years this weekend.

In the Bristol Brewery he owns with partners, the two-time Daytona 500 champion and current FOX TV analyst spoke about the race track being built inside the Los Angeles Coliseum and the season at to come.

The season kicks off with the Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles on February 6 before the official debut at the Daytona 500 two weeks later. Also consider that NASCAR is launching the Next Gen race car, which has differences such as a sequential drivetrain and composite bodies.

In addition, this will be the second year that Bristol Motor Speedway has been covered with a dirt track for its spring race.

What do you see for 2022 with such a drastic change with racing cars?

Waltrip: “This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting years of all time with the new car and the anticipation that surrounds it. When they released the ‘Car of Tomorrow’ in 2007, the drivers didn’t have a lot of information and they didn’t like the car very much. It’s been a collaborative effort between the teams and NASCAR to bring a car more relevant to what we drive on the street.

“I can’t wait to see who puts their arms around first. You’re going to have Hendrick, Gibbs, Stewart-Haas, who have all the resources, but then you have the small teams like Spire and Trackhouse. Are the rules of the game fairer now? Do we see the guys from the small teams playing at a high level? This is going to be interesting for me.

“I’ve been a NASCAR fan all my life, but never looked forward to a season so eagerly because of the unknowns and the anticipation of what might come.”

You have gone through the “Car of tomorrow” change. How much of a fit is a new car for a driver?

Waltrip: “The race is difficult because of the 39 other competitors. You drive the best stock car drivers in the world. It’s not difficult because of the cars or the tracks, it’s difficult because of the other guys. They are so talented. Whoever has the best attitude, the most open-minded about the new car, will likely benefit.

“For me, the car is not the difficult part. He beats the other pilots.

And the Kyle Larson effect? Kyle Busch won his first qualifying race in a wingless sprint car and Chase Elliott competed in wing sprints and midgets.

Waltrip: “It’s really cool that Kyle (Busch) spent a week in Tulsa. We have the Chili Bowl (Midget Nationals) coming up and we’ll see how it goes. I played golf with Larson last week and talked about all the fun he had as a NASCAR champion. He is so grateful for this honor.

“It’s good to have someone like Kyle Larson who just wants to run and wherever and when. He just wants to get behind the wheel and go. You see more guys enjoying those short track Saturday nights and it brings more fans to NASCAR races on Sunday.

What are your thoughts on the layout of the Los Angeles Coliseum?

Waltrip: “I was standing in the middle of the Colosseum and looking at the race track. I was like, ‘Wow, I ran on smaller tracks than this one.’ It felt like a big short track to me. The back is immediately curved with a beautiful arch.

“It’s going to have a 21/2 degree incline all around. It’s shaping up to be a special on February 6th. They sell a lot of tickets. So if they sell the Coliseum and have all the energy and excitement that I expect to share on FOX, this is a great way to kick off the 2022 season.

“One important thing for fans to understand is the perfect little track for these teams to get a taste of this car in competition. Aerodynamics will not be part of the equation. It’s going to be pushing, pushing and running. You think of the history of all the things that have happened in this wonderful place and it’s great that NASCAR is a part of it. “

What do you expect the second time around with the Bristol dirt race?

Waltrip: “Hope the weather is better because it was terrible with how it rained so much last year. Still, the race was very entertaining. I walked around, visited different fans and a lot of people really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to go into the second round and see how the guys adapt and adjust, and who is able to come out on top.

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