We’ve run Daytona. We’ve run road courses. We’ve run short tracks. We’ve run intermediates. A bunch of different types of tracks so far this year, but this weekend has something completely different. We’re running a Dirt Race. Yep. The first time in the Cup Series since Richard Petty won in September of 1970. Rain has interfered with this one already, washing out our Heat Qualifiers on Saturday (and the Truck race), we’ll pick it up on Monday at 4.
Here’s what to look for:
–Kyle Larson spent much of 2020 running dirt races around the U.S. after his iRacing slur sent him out of the Cup Series. He’s back, and is a favorite to win according to many experts. He’s in the Truck race, too, so he’ll have some additional Practice right before the Cup race. The problem? He had to change an engine on Friday, and per the rulebook he’ll have to start from the rear. Slotted to start from Pole, he’ll have a much different view from 39th than the vantage point (and advantage!) he’d have from 1st. His dirt skills will be put to the test.
–Christopher Bell is another name that is floating around. He finished 3rd in the iRacing event on Wednesday, and has some dirt experience. He’s already got a Win this year on the Daytona Road Course, and could very well be the first driver to two Wins this year.
–Chase Briscoe is a rookie in the Cup Series right now, and hasn’t yet met any of the lofty expectations. He seemed like a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year (and currently has the lead over Anthony Alfredo), but isn’t running with that upper echelon just yet. That could change this week. It may not be long term, but Briscoe is one to watch on Monday.
–Kyle Busch has 8 Wins at Bristol, though each of those have come on pavement. Does any of this prowess translate to the dirt race? It has to…right? At least in some form? He’s posted 19 Top 10s in 31 attempts, and it’s hard to believe that none of that would pay off in this one. And wouldn’t that be something if Rowdy just went ahead and won this thing, after all the drama surrounding Dirt Ringers and “past dirt experience?” “It’s still Bristol!,” he could say. And he’d probably be all humble about it, too, ya know?
-I guess we should talk about some of those Dirt Ringers then, yeah? We’ve had Road Course Ringers in NASCAR for years, guys hopping in a ride for Watkins Glen or Sonoma and then back out of the Cup Series the next week. Guys like Boris Said, Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett, and then Ringers-turned-Regulars in A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. While the last two have posted Road Wins, the previous three didn’t achieve the success that they (and others) fantasized about (though with more Road Courses on the 2021 Schedule than ever, they’ll have more chances). As for Bristol, could a Dirt Racer like Chris Windom, Stewart Friesen, Mike Marlar, or Shane Golobic upturn the apple cart and shock the racing world? One and done here (unless you count the Truck race some of them will be involved in, too), and buried in the field because of Qualifying being rained out, they’ll have a long road to hoe, but more experience than the majority of the field. Therein lies the drama, and what makes sports — on any surface! — so great.
Last year we rocked some serious banana pudding and fried bologna sandwiches, this year we’re going with…
We thought about this last year but it didn’t materialize for whatever reason. This is basically what they do often in Tennessee: one meat, and then three sides. Everything was darn good. Beef ribs were falling right off the bone, mac ‘n cheese was delicious and crispy on top, and the cornbread left me yearning for more. And I’m not a green bean guy, but these worked just fine. Nice job, Leese!
Second shot at this race tomorrow; coverage of the race starts on FOX at 4:00pm Monday, green flag scheduled for somewhere around there.