Forgive me when I say that I have no idea what will happen in this weekend’s NASCAR race. The fact of the matter is that nobody really does because this will be the first dirt race for the NASCAR Cup Series since 1970. The Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway is going to be some kind of spectacle.
The drivers will run 250 laps around the .533-mile track that will be covered in dirt. The length of this race has been cut in half with the format change and this is really going to be a difficult handicap to say the least.
A lot of these drivers got started on dirt or at least ran on dirt as amateurs or maybe to some degree as a professional, but they’ve never run these Cup Series stock cars on that kind of surface.
So, we’ll do the best we can and try and find any sort of edge possible. Odds are from BetOnline Sportsbook.
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr||+1000|
|Darrell Wallace Jr||+2000|
|Martin Truex Jr||+2800|
Pricing this race is not easy. Kyle Larson probably has the most dirt racing experience of any active driver, so it isn’t the least bit surprising to see him listed as the favorite, especially with a win and a second in his last two starts. Christopher Bell has a lot of dirt experience, so he’s at a short price.
We also see some dirt course ringers in here like Stewart Friesen, Chris Windom, and Mike Marlar that are getting some love on the betting board.
Bristol Motor Speedway, But With Dirt
Bristol Motor Speedway is a small track, so we usually get a lot of action, but with the cars potentially slipping and sliding on dirt, The Last Great Colosseum could be the site of something special this week. Some drivers have been doing the iRacing simulations to get familiar with the surface.
Others, like Austin Dillon, have practiced recently on the surface in the Dirt Nationals. Bubba Wallace is also another guy that has a dirt background from the Eldora race on the Camping World Truck Series circuit.
The track is set up with several different layers of sediment. Sawdust makes up the bottom layer just above the regular concrete surface. Additional layers of older dirt are then packed down with clay and then topped by a reddish clay native to Tennessee. We’ll have to see how slick the surface actually is, but the Cup Series cars will not twist sideways like what you’ve seen with midget cars.
Some have speculated that because of the nature of the surface, we could have a tale of two races, with a lot of dirt and grime over the first couple of stages and then a faster surface at the end.
Well, we don’t really have any “horse for course” to talk about this week with Bristol Motor Speedway. We simply don’t have any kind of sample size on dirt.
That means looking more at guys with some dirt experience and success. I mentioned above that Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon are two guys that stand out. Larson actually ran second in the Super Late Model Bristol Dirt Nationals on Saturday before going out and winning the race in Atlanta on Sunday. Larson won a 10-lap heat race prior to his second in the main event.
Dillon won a 20-lap 604 Late Model race in easy fashion and spent most of last week running around on the dirt instead of preparing for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Kyle Busch also seems like a guy that can figure out his way around the dirt and he finished second in his 10-lap heat race to advance to the main event, where he finished 11th.
Looking At Long Shots?
Maybe some long shots are the way to go here. Most of the established Cup Series guys aren’t running dirt tracks. Some of the recent graduates from the Xfinity Series, like Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, and Chris Buescher, are more likely to have run on dirt recently.
We’ve already had six different race winners in six races this season and unless Larson wins this week, a seventh seems pretty likely. This is going to be such an interesting race all the way around.
Well, let’s throw a few darts here. Austin Dillon’s price is depressed from where it usually is because he has dirt experience, but you have to like his chances. He ran a quality sixth last week at Atlanta, so he had a good car anyway. The price around 9/1 isn’t what I’d typically want on him, but his dirt experience helps.
Chase Elliott at +1600 is my favorite pick. Elliott has less dirt experience than others, but he’s such a smart, savvy driver and one of the younger guys that probably has more recent runs on dirt tracks than most of the other drivers. This is a great price on him that we shouldn’t see in a crapshoot such as this.
Coverage of the Food City Bristol Dirt Race will be on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.