Personal fondness or disdain for the dirt race aside for a moment, it should be agreed that NASCAR, Bristol Motor Speedway, and all involved in putting on the event deserve their flowers today.

The third edition of the event for the NASCAR Cup Series cars, although littered with inconsistent calls and non-calls for cautions, was the most entertaining. Not only was the driving ability and adaptability of the sport’s top stars on display, but the field was able to put on such a show because the track was well-prepared.

“I thought tonight was a great night for NASCAR and a great night for dirt racing,” said Chase Briscoe. “I felt like that was finally the first time we’ve had as close as it’s going to get to what dirt racing is in sprint cars or late models and how you drive them. I just thought, from my vantage point, a great race. I thought that’s why you saw the dirt guys shine tonight because it was finally a real dirt track-style race.

“I thought the track prep guys did a phenomenal job. At the beginning of the day, before we even started the race and they had the trucks out there hot lapping, I thought there was no way the top would ever come in, and it definitely came in. I had a blast from my side.”

It’s unclear when Steve Swift, senior vice president of operations and development for Speedway Motorsports, and his team began their day’s work, but they were already on the racetrack and overseeing the prep work as early as noon when folks started to filter in to the field.

Cars, equipment, and the water truck were put to work all day. Craftsman Truck Series drivers Grant Enfinger and Rajah Caruth, who had competed on the dirt the night before, drove their trucks for hot laps to further work in the track as the Cup Series field prepared for pre-race activities on pit road.

“This was a lot of fun from start to finish, one of the best races I’ve been a part of,” said Austin Dillon, who also praised Speedway Motorsports. “You saw guys come and go, sliding, moving. I don’t care what anybody says, that was an awesome race.”

Said Ricky Stenhouse Jr., “I hope that was a good show. I thought the race track was as good as it could be. You could run kind of all over the place, so hats off to the track.”

There were indeed cars all over the racing surface. There were single-car spins from a driver stepping over the limit. There were crashes. And there were drivers putting on a clinic of good racing with slide jobs and some bumping and shoving, even amongst teammates like Dillon and Kyle Busch.

Sunday night was a great show, and that’s what matters to NASCAR. If drivers like Briscoe, Dillon, and Stenhouse were having fun and liked the conditions they had to compete on, it feels hard to criticize it when those three know what good dirt racing should look like.

Not even the bump, crater, or sinkhole that was in Turn 3 drew many complaints.

“Ah, it’s just dirt racing,” said Tyler Reddick, another dirt ace. “It’s fine.”

Briscoe said it was fine if you drove around it, which he did most of the night. However, he did see other drivers, like winner Christopher Bell drive over it a few times.

“It wasn’t bad. I think that’s normal,” Briscoe said. “You’re going to have that at a dirt track, it’s never going to be perfectly smooth. You’re going to have character in it. I thought it was fine, but I’m sure some guys didn’t like how rough it was. But whenever you have something like that, you can use it to your advantage or disadvantage, and it’s really a tool for your car.”

The inaugural edition of the Bristol dirt event was far from impressive. It might even be fair to say it bordered on disaster. Rain early in the weekend led to mudslinging practice and heat races. Then both the Craftsman Truck Series and Cup Series races were postponed until Monday and run in the sunlight.

Track conditions were terrible. It became single groove because it took so much rubber, and it was so dusty that not only was it hard to see on television cameras, drivers were complaining, too. NASCAR officials had to implement single-file restarts late in the Cup Series race.

Running the events at night last season made a huge difference, and track prep was better. it led to optimism coming into the third year, and the hype was well deserved. Drivers could compete with what they had Sunday night, which led to a much more enjoyable viewing experience.

It’s not too much to acknowledge the latest edition of Bristol dirt was a success and those who made that happen. Tomorrow, everyone can go back to debating if it should be on the schedule for another year.