PREVIEW: NASCAR’s ‘Best Season Ever’ Slides Into Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City Dirt Raceby Hunter Thomas March 25, 2021 0 comments
NASCAR’s “Best Season Ever” has been a wild ride just within the first six races, but on Sunday, the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway may produce one of the greatest moments ever as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to dirt for the first time in more than 50 years.
Cinderella Winners in Florida
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season kicked off with Cinderella winner, Michael McDowell, who not only captured his first Daytona 500 victory, but he visited Victory Lane for the first time in his 14-year career. A week later, it was Christopher Bell winning his first-career NASCAR Cup Series race at the Daytona Road Course. The season produced its third different winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where William Byron captured his second-career win.
Veterans Back in Victory Lane
Florida produced first-time winners and Cinderella stories, but the West was in favor of the veterans who hadn’t visited Victory Lane in quite a while. Kyle Larson, who returned to the NASCAR Cup Series this season after being suspended for saying a racial slur online, visited Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win marked his first win in two years and his first for Hendrick Motorsports. At Phoenix Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. snapped a 29-race winless streak after he got the best of Joey Logano on the final restart of the afternoon.
NASCAR Returns to the Southeast
As the NASCAR Cup Series made its way back to the Southeast, the season saw its sixth different winner in the first six races, when Ryan Blaney came out of nowhere at Atlanta Motor Speedway and drove past Larson who had been so dominate throughout the afternoon. The win marked Blaney’s fifth-career in the series.
Now, the NASCAR Cup Series visits Bristol Motor Speedway, and it has been completely revamped and its concrete surface had been covered with sawdust, dirt and a variety of clay. The drivers have absolutely no experience racing on this surface, except for the eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series race that was run virtually on Wednesday night.
Bristol Heat Races and Starting Lineup Format
And oh, by the way, the format will be a little different as well. On Saturday, there will be four, 15-lap qualifying races that will set the starting lineup for Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race. Winners of each heat will earn 10 points, and then there will be a one-point deduction on down. Drivers will also earn one point for each position gained as well. Between the various points earned, the starting lineup will be pieced together.
It all sounds like a recipe for quite a memorable night. Just think back to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races that have been run at Eldora Speedway. Now, a similar show will be displayed on the biggest stage of NASCAR.
Drivers to Watch at Bristol
Will the Food City Dirt Race produce the seventh different winner this year? Who knows, but a few drivers I suggest keeping an eye on this weekend are Larson, Bell, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Stewart Friesen who will be making his series debut with Spire Motorsports. Those few drivers of course, are some of the more experienced on dirt.
Larson enters the weekend as probably the favorite to win Sunday’s race. While he was suspended from NASCAR competition last year, he continued to compete on dirt. The California native is also a two-time Chili Bowl Champion. Just last week during the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway, Larson won his heat race but finished second to Jonathan Davenport in the Super Late Model main event.
Dillon has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events at Eldora Speedway. He won in 2013 and finished 10th in 2014 and sixth in 2015. Dillon also competed in the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals. He competed in a 604 Late Model and won a heat race and two main events.
Briscoe may be a rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series while competing for Stewart-Haas Racing, but he is one of the more experienced drivers on dirt. He won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway in 2018. He finished third in 2017 and seventh in 2019. Briscoe’s career began on dirt as he competed throughout the Midwest in his early years of racing.
Friesen is a veteran in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but he will be a rookie in the Food City Dirt Race. He has more than 1,200 starts on dirt, and he has won at least 290 races in a dirt Modified race car. Friesen also won the 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Superspeedway. He is without a doubt, the most experienced competitor in Sunday’s field.
Weekend Schedule at Bristol
The NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will have two practice sessions on Friday. Coverage will be found on FS1 throughout Friday.
On Saturday, heat races will get underway at 4:30 p.m. ET, beginning with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. NASCAR Cup Series heat races will begin at 6 p.m. ET. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will compete in the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. All of the action throughout Saturday will broadcast live on FS1.
The 250-lap Food City Dirt Race is slated to get underway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, and it will broadcast live on FOX.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com