NASCAR Dirt Race Preview: Bristol
NASCAR continues the series’ short track run with the second dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Easter Sunday Night.
Last season’s dirt race was plagued by rain delays and ground effects. The Cup Race had to be delayed until Monday afternoon and restarts had to be single file due to dirt blinding the view of the drivers. This year, rain is expected on and off, but not to the level of last season.
This race will also be the first official race of the NASCAR Next Gen car on the half-mile dirt circuit. NASCAR expects the new chassis to perform more naturally on dirt than the car configuration used last year.
The chassis received many adjustments in order to keep dirt out of the drivers’ view as much as possible. This includes adding “dirt event debris shields” to the cars’ components for the week of this race.
Last year contained 10 caution flags over the 253 lap race; accounting for over 15% of the race's laps being run under caution. The hope is that the race can run smoother this season.
Last week in Martinsville, William Byron became the first driver of the season to win multiple races. Byron is not viewed as a favorite this weekend though, as he lacks any experience on dirt outside of last year’s race in Bristol.
Joey Logano came out of last season as a surprise winner and looks to repeat on the dirt track. Logano previously hadn’t had any dirt experience, but took advantage of many race favorites being forced to end their days early due to wrecks.
The extended favorite for this Sunday's race is defending NASCAR champion Kyle Larson. Larson not only dominated the Cup Series last season, but is the best dirt racer among the field as well.
While away from NASCAR in 2020, Larson took his talents to dirt races around the country. Larson ended up competing in 83 dirt races that year; he won 43 of them. Larson was debated among the best dirt racers in history during that historic season.
The next closest favorite is the same man who wrecked out of the race at Bristol with Larson last year. Christopher Bell is the other driver in the NASCAR Cup field with a substantial dirt racing resume. Bell looks to compete for the win this year after the disappointing result of last season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has competed in plenty of dirt races prior to his NASCAR career, but his aggressiveness and mistakes on the track lead to him being a longshot to win. Although, he is still a dark horse after finishing second at Bristol Dirt last year.
The last driver to watch is current points-leader Chase Elliott. Although he has yet to win a race this season, Elliott holds a well-rounded racing background and strives on road courses and other unique racing environments.
Evan Smith is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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