Kyle Larson Carries Momentum Into Food City Dirt Race At Bristol Motor Speedwayby Hunter Thomas March 28, 2021 0 comments
BRISTOL, Tenn. – With the season that Kyle Larson is having, he is certainly a driver to keep an eye on in the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
As seasoned of a dirt driver Larson is though, even he doesn’t know what is going to happen when the green flag waves to get the first dirt race in more than 50 years underway. While Larson has quite a resume in dirt racing, the NASCAR Cup Series cars are much heavier, and they have less horsepower than what Larson is used to competing in on dirt. In opening practice on Friday, he was fifth fastest, and in the second session, he was 15th.
“Anticipation and the unknown,” Larson said. “Even me being a dirt racer, I really don’t know what to expect. These cars are way different than what I’m used to racing on dirt. They are way heavier with a lot less power than I’m used to. I think the only thing that transfers from my previous dirt experience to this weekend is how to read the surface and how it changes and evolves throughout the weekend and the race. I may be able to adapt to that quicker than a pavement racer.”
The driver of the No. 5 Freightliner Chevy enters the race with momentum on his side. Over the last three races, he won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finished seventh at Phoenix Raceway and led 269 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway before settling for second after being passed by Ryan Blaney in the closing laps. Now, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is going to compete within an environment where few NASCAR Cup Series drivers have any experience.
“I don’t know; I think I’m considered a favorite probably at most race tracks right now.” Larson said.
He continued and said, “I still think I’ve got a good shot, but I don’t really know if I have an advantage over anybody, other than just being able to kind of read the track surface; know kind of how that’s changing, where to find grip and things like that. Really, I think that’s probably the only advantage any of us dirt guys have over somebody who hasn’t had much dirt experience.”
In Friday’s practice sessions, it was Alex Bowman leading the way in the first session and Ryan Blaney topping the speed chart in the second session. While Larson has an impressive dirt racing resume, so does Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe who were both fast as well. Bell was second and 12th, while Briscoe was 10th and fifth. Larson also believes that Austin Dillon is also a driver to keep an eye on for the win come race time.
“I would not be shocked if a pavement guy went there and was fast right off the bat because I don’t think it’s going to be dirt like we’re used to,” Larson said. “But it’s hard to also not look at the guys that have a lot of dirt experience as being a favorite. I think Christopher Bell; I think he’s obviously one of the most talented race car drivers I’ve ever watched, especially on dirt. So, I think for sure he’ll be one of the guys to beat. Austin Dillon is another one I look at. If anybody has more experience racing on this type of stuff, it’s him.”
Larson was credited with the pole for the Food City Dirt Race, but since his team made an engine change following practice, he is expected to drop to the end of the field at the start of the race. Whether it be asphalt or dirt, Larson always makes it interesting as he makes his way towards the front of the pack.
Larson is scheduled to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt prior to Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series race. The opportunity may have served as an advantage on Saturday, but now with both races back-to-back on Monday, Larson may struggle with additional challenges related to endurance.
The Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway is slated to get underway at 4 p.m. ET on Monday. Live coverage will broadcast on FOX.
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images