It’s Dirt Baby! NASCAR is back to racing on dirt in the Cup Series. This will be the first time the cars have been on dirt since 1970. The fans asked for it and now they got it. The field for the Food City Dirt Race was set last night through four Heat Races and now it is time for the main event.
This race could easily end up looking like a Superspeedway race. What do I mean?… There are going to be some inexperienced drivers spinning out on the dirt and taking some of the good drivers with them. The tires are also a problem. Most of the drivers had problems keeping the tires from wearing down to the cords after 25-30 laps in practice.
NASCAR changed the rules so that there will be breaks at lap 50, lap 100 and lap 150 for the teams to change tires. The race will be paused and the drivers will not lose their spot during the pit stop, so pit crew speed does not matter this week. 50 laps is still a long time on these tires, so it will be important for the drivers to save what rubber they can.
This is a good race to try and save an allocation with your top drivers. I will be loading my lineup with the drivers who have some experience on dirt and saving the drivers with limited experience for the asphalt tracks. I want drivers who know how to save their tires on the dirt Sunday.
Here are my picks for the Bristol Dirt Race…
* I mapped out my allocations with each driver for each race. I do this each year to ensure I am using each driver at their best tracks. I will tweak it during the season if a driver gets on a hot-streak, but it gives me an idea of what allocations I have left with each driver.
* I would love to use Kyle Larson in this race. He is by far the favorite but his allocations will be very important at the paved tracks too. The No. 5 car had to change their engine so Larson will start from the back Sunday. There is a risk of blown tires and cars overheating from mud on the grills, so I will save Larson for the more predictable tracks. If you have 9 or more allocations with Larson, you should put him in the Garage over Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Christopher Bell (10): Christopher Bell is one of the best dirt track racers. He won three straight Chili Bowl Nationals races and that race consists of the best dirt track drivers in the world. Bell should be the best driver for Joe Gibbs Racing Sunday. I would not be surprised to see him back in Victory Lane for the second time in 2021.
Tyler Reddick (9): Tyler Reddick has had a lot of success racing Late Model Cars on dirt. He spent a lot of time racing in the World of Outlaws Late Model Racing Series and in the Dirtcar Summer Nationals events. It is going to be very important for drivers to save their tires Sunday and Reddick is very good at riding “the cushion” to save his tires. He may not start out with a lot of speed, but he should be up front at the end of the Stages and at the end of the race.
Chase Briscoe (10): Chase Briscoe grew up racing on dirt so he does have some experience. He also has competed in three races in the Camping World Truck Series at El Dora Speedway on dirt. Briscoe finished 3rd in 2017, won the race in 2018 and finished 7th in 2019. Briscoe is also running the Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol this week. That means he gets two more practices, one more Heat Race and the 150 laps in the Trucks so figure out the track.
Alex Bowman (9): Alex Bowman was one of the biggest surprises in practice. He posted the fastest time in Practice 1 and the 2nd fast speed in final practice. So was Bowman burning the rubber off the tires to run these fastest laps? It does not look like it. Bowman was 2nd fastest on the 10-lap speed chart in practice 1 and 5th fastest on the 10-lap speed chart in final practice. This is nothing new for Bowman. Both of his wins in the Cup Series came on tracks with high tire-wear (Auto Club and Chicagoland). I will take a chance with Bowman Sunday.
Ryan Newman (9): I did not realize Ryan Newman had so much dirt track experience until I researched him this week. Newman looked great in both Truck Series practices and he was very good at saving his tires in the Cup Series practice. Newman also got some extra seat time since he competed in the Truck Series practice. I will use Newman this week so I can save my allocations with my top drivers for the paved tracks.
Garage Driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10): Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is a former Dirt Winged Sprint Car Rookie of the Year. He drove for Tony Stewart’s USAC National Midget Car Series team, winning five times and scored 14 top-10 finishes. Stenhouse did not post blazing fast speeds in practice but I am not worried about him. Stenhouse was running the top of the track and saving his tires. That is going to be very important Sunday. I will have this dirt track ace in the Garage this week.
Good luck and be sure to follow me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR. I will send out a Tweet during the race to let you know if I plan to swap out one of my drivers for my Garage pick.
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