It’s gonna be a fun weekend for racing. I don’t have any stats for the drivers on this track because it’s a first. And the NASCAR Cup Series hasn’t run on any kind of dirt track since 1970. This is going to be a strange experience for many of these drivers—but not all of them. Based on past dirt track experience and sheer talent, here are my Brilliant, Bold, and Bonkers picks for this week’s Food City 500 Dirt Race at Bristol.
Brilliant – These NASCAR drivers have the best shot to win on the dirt in Bristol
There are some NASCAR Cup drivers with experience on dirt, and this guy has a ton of it. His first Sprint car race win came on the dirt at Placerville Speedway, followed by the 4 Crown Nationals win at Eldora Speedway in 2011. Kyle Larson holds the Sprint car record at Ocean Speedway, won the Eldora Dirt Derby in 2016, and the Chili Bowl in 2020 and 2021. This guy is a shoe-in for the win. Sit back and watch dirt-track talent at work.
Christopher Bell has plenty of experience on the dirt—he was the 2013 National Midget Champion, after all. He also ran the Gateway Dirt Nationals in 2014, won the Chili Bowl three years in a row (2017, 2018, 2019), and is a 2015 Eldora Midsummer Classic winner. That’s just a little bit to show you why he’s a favorite at Bristol.
Tyler Reddick started competing in mini sprints, midgets, dirt late models, and Sprint cars at a very young age. He holds the record as the youngest driver to compete for the pole position at Eldora Speedway and was the youngest driver to win the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. His dirt track days aren’t as far behind him as some of the other drivers’ are, and that will give him an edge in the field on Sunday.
Bold – These are my NASCAR sleeper picks for Bristol
Alex Bowman won the USAC National Focus Midget championship as well as the California Dirt Focus Midget championship in 2008. He ran the Chili Bowl in 2016 and he actually owns a Dirt Midget team. I wouldn’t count him out for a win at the Dirt Race at Bristol.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse began his Sprint car career in 2003 by winning the Dirt Winged Sprint Car Rookie of the Year award. In 2006 he won the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Driver Poll Wild Card in both the 360 and 410 winged sprint car divisions. In 2007 he won rookie of the year in both the United States Auto Club Sprint car (finishing 6th in the standings) and Midget (with a 3rd place finish). He has the experience to make a good show at Bristol if he can channel the past and make use of it.
Chase Briscoe started driving 410 Sprint cars at the age of 13. He had 17 top-10 finishes that year and won the final race, setting a record for the youngest driver to ever win a 410. He’s been climbing the ladder ever since and he has a good chance of hanging with the best of the best on the dirt at Bristol.
Bonkers – Stay away from these NASCAR drivers in your fantasy lineup for the Bristol dirt race this week
He was a go-Kart racing champ early in life, but by the time he got serious about racing, he went right to the paved tracks. Harvick is special, but there are too many drivers with lots of experience on a dirt track that are sure to give him a run, and likely put him somewhere in the middle by the end of the race.
Martin Truex Jr.
I’m not saying that a guy with no experience on a dirt track is a definite for the bonkers category, but it doesn’t look good. He’s a pro that you want to stay away from until we get back to the paved tracks again.
Brad hit the ground running with the Truck Series early on, and pretty much stuck to the paved circuits from there. He’s a champion in the truck races, but I just don’t think he has enough to get the win on this unfamiliar dirt track—especially with Larson and Bell to contend with.