Hello friends and welcome to another edition of the blog. We’re keeping it (slightly more) concise this week, because there’s only NASCAR to talk about. But not just any NASCAR race, it’s Bristol Dirt!
Bristol Motor Speedway is an iconic venue, the one true “stadium track” in NASCAR with seats wrapping entirely around the half mile oval. In the past few years, NASCAR has decided to dump a gazillion truck loads of dirt onto the concrete oval and created a dirt track. And for the first time since the 80s, the Cup Series will be running on Easter Sunday.
Dirt at Bristol has been a subject of controversy within NASCAR. Some fans love it, some fans would rather keep the spring Bristol race on the concrete, which has had a number of legendary races. Drivers have varying opinions, veterans of dirt and those who still compete in dirt racing will naturally feel more comfortable than those who graduated from asphalt ovals or road course racing.
But the Cup Series car is very different than a car modified specifically to race/slide on dirt. Cup cars are generally made not to spin and slide, and on dirt you need to slide in turns. As was explained in “Cars”, to race on dirt, you need to whip the wheel to the right to stay straight on the banked turns, hence “Turn right to turn left“. Trying to find the balance to make a car made for asphalt to work on dirt is a tricky task and doesn’t necessarily favor drivers who are used to cars actually made for dirt.
All of that is to say that Kyle Larson may seem an appealing wager as a favorite with his dirt-track expertise, but the Cup Series car is very different from the late models that Larson is used to sliding around a dirt oval in.
Joey Logano won the first dirt race at Bristol, and he was never a dirt racer before joining the NASCAR ladder. Logano was an asphalt oval ace, who bested all the dirt racers in what was a chaotic first dirt race in the Cup Series in decades.
Drivers couldn’t see when the dry spots would kick up dust. Drivers in the pack would tell their spotters they just couldn’t see with all the dirt and dust in their windshields, so they were largely relying on what they could hear on radio, driving into a dust storm created by the cars in front of them.
Cars not made for dirt racing struggled with all of the mud and dust, unsurprisingly. This year NASCAR teams will have mud flaps installed and screens covering all air ducts, to hopefully block some of the mud while allowing airflow where needed into the car.
I can’t promise the most amazing, high-speeds action on the Bristol dirt but the race should be entertaining however it manifests. Saturday’s action in the NASCAR Truck Series action should also be interesting, with plenty of Cup Series drivers looking for dirt practice and some more frequent dirt racers trying their hand at the NASCAR level.
I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to be an expert on the Truck Series. The whole series are veteran agents of chaos, angry teens, and someone named “Lawless Alan”. It’s always an entertaining spectacle, and dirt will add to that.
Of the Cup Series drivers racing in the trucks on Saturday, Joey Logano topped the timing chart, and Chase Elliott had a few spins but registered the fifth fastest lap during practice. Logano seems to feel comfortable on the dirt in cars (and trucks) that weren’t made for it.
Without further ado, let’s get to the picks, which were hit and miss last week for NASCAR and the F1 Australian Grand Prix. My disclaimer here is that Bristol dirt can make everything a crapshoot, so I’ve checked my preconceived notions of strategy and track advantage at the door.
Joey Logano head-to-head over Chase Elliott -120
Ben Rhodes head-to-head over Stewart Friesen -120
Ben Rhodes top 5 +100
Kyle Larson to qualify better than Chase Elliott -110
William Byron head-to-head over Alex Bowman -120
Joey Logano top Ford +250
Chevy winning manufacturer +105