The following article is brought to you by BetMGM.
Talk about getting back to your roots — we present the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol (Monday at 4 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). NASCAR’s history is loaded with dirt-race lore. In the early days of racing, drivers competed on whatever surface they could find.
Most of the time in those early years, that surface was dirt. Only years later did asphalt (or in some cases, concrete) become the predominant choice. In fact, while lower series have done it recently, the last dirt-track race in the NASCAR Cup Series happened in 1970. Since it’s been so long, this weekend’s version will be an interesting race to bet NASCAR online, but we’ll give you some clues on who has flourished on dirt in lower divisions of racing.
For the record, the all-time winningest driver — Richard Petty — captured the checkered flag at the last one in 1970. It was contested at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.
On Monday, we’ll get to see a throwback race at one of the NASCAR Cup Series’ favorite venues — Bristol Motor Speedway in the hills of Tennessee. The speedway has covered its concrete track with dirt for this weekend’s foray into yesteryear.
The key to racing on dirt is to control the car’s natural pull to the outside of a slick surface, while keeping its tires underneath the machine. It’s a balance that takes serious skill and experience. Some drivers came from that background and have mastered it, and some haven’t.
It’s similar to road courses, where a road-course ringer might pop up two or three times a year out of nowhere and be a legitimate threat to win. With a dirt track? If you’re following the NASCAR odds this week, you’ll see some new names, which we’ll discuss below.
Kyle Larson (+250)
Kyle Larson is like a Zen master of dirt-track racing. Aside from already being one of the more dominant NASCAR Cup Series wheelers on all track genres, he’s been one of the frontrunners in lower-series racing when it comes to the dirt. Larson ran 97 non-NASCAR races on dirt in 2020. He won 46 of them.
Does that help one understand why he’s perched atop the NASCAR betting lines this weekend?
To be honest? Larson has long been known as a guy who wanted to slip away mid-week and run dirt races all over the country. He’s a natural, and there’s really no question why he’s the frontrunner this weekend.
OTHERS: Keep an eye on up-and-comer Christopher Bell (+550). Are you sick of us mentioning this guy, week in and week out? He truly is one to watch this upcoming weekend, as he can spin it. He has a history of success at dirt tracks.
THE DARK HORSE THREAT
Austin Dillon (+1000)
Who are we kidding? Dillon seems due for a race victory, and this might just be the place to do it. He’s been close this year, taking third at the Daytona 500 and sixth last weekend in Atlanta. He’s 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings so far, right on the cusp of being one of the elites.
As an accomplished dirt-race guy, getting his fourth career win on this track would be a massive boost to trying to get him into the top 10 in the series. He did win a past truck race at Eldora’s dirt-track course, and he has the firepower under the hood to do big things this weekend. Watch out.
OTHERS: Tyler Reddick (+1600) has a solid dirt-racing background and is a guy to keep an eye on in the No. 8 BetMGM car for Richard Childress Racing. Chase Briscoe (+1000) is another up-and-coming star who has the same kind of background as Reddick.
THE INTRIGUING LONG SHOT
Stewart Friesen (+1400)
Honestly? Stewart Friesen may not be the underdog or potential Cinderella story one might think. He has 97 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and one of his two career wins — and three of his top-five finishes — have come at Eldora Speedway in Ohio, a well-known dirt track.
Friesen, a native Canadian, has been pretty strong in the series overall, with top 10 finishes in 51 of his 97 starts. Not only is he a good dirt-track racer, he’s a pretty effective racer in general.
OTHERS: When it comes to some of the other new faces this weekend, Mike Marlar (+3000), Chris Windom (+4000), and Shane Golobic (+5000) are interesting candidates because they are dirt-track ringers. This weekend, all three join Friesen in their first career NASCAR Cup Series starts. Golobic races mostly in sprint cars and has more than 80 feature wins to his name.
Windom is a master of the USAC Midget circuit. Marlar has one Xfinity Series race on his resume and has had a cup of coffee with the Camping World Truck Series. He took fourth at the Eldora Speedway dirt-track race in 2019.