|Martin Truex Jr.||+1400
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The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track after last year’s inaugural race on the half-mile facility, but there’s a major difference. The 2021 event was a dusty afternoon affair. Sunday’s reprise is a night race, and the track should do a better job of holding moisture under the lights.
The Food City Dirt Race was NASCAR’s first Cup Series event held on Easter Sunday since Rusty Wallace won at Richmond in 1989 in a race postponed from February because of snow. The event will feature 15-lap qualifying heats on Saturday and will be contested over 250 laps (125 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 75 and 150 laps. Joey Logano is the defending winner of the race.
On last year’s inaugural dirt weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. distinguished himself. Not only did he win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, but he also led 126 of the 250 laps in the Cup race before falling to 19th at the finish.
But will Truex still be a factor in a race that features NASCAR’s new Next Gen race car—not to mention a race that has moved from day to night and should resemble more closely a traditional dirt event.
We don’t think so, and, apparently, the oddsmakers agree. Truex is available at +1400 via DraftKings Sports book, but we don’t think he’s a good bet for Sunday, even at that level.
Much of the anticipation for the 2021 inaugural Bristol dirt race was centered around expectations that dirt superstars Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell would battle for the victory.
But the unexpected happened. Racing at the front of the field, Larson and Bell collided in Turn 2 on Lap 53 and finished 29th and 34th, respectively.
That should be the anomaly. Before Tanner Thorson won this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals in an upset, Bell and Larson had combined to win five straight times in the world’s most prestigious midget race.
Even though Larson won 46 of the 96 dirt races he entered in 2020, across several different disciplines, we think he and Bell are roughly equal in talent and in the quality of their equipment. Hence, we’ll take Bell to win—simply because he’s available at +800 (DraftKings) versus the shorter odds (+550) for Larson.
One other thing to note: Larson was grousing on SiriusXM Radio about windshields on the Cup cars, a feature that’s foreign to other forms of dirt racing. That bit of negativity toward the event also tips the scales slightly toward Bell.
Both Bristol dirt races went to unexpected winners last year: Martin Truex Jr. in the Truck Series and Joey Logano in the Cup Series inaugural.
Logano won the 2021 Food City Dirt Race despite having severely limited experience on the clay surface—specifically four career starts in a dirt modified car. But lightning won’t strike twice on Sunday.
If you’re looking for a long-shot winner, try Bubba Wallace at +3000 via DraftKings or Austin Dillon (+4000). Both drivers have Truck Series victories on the dirt half-mile at Eldora Speedway on their resumes, Dillon in 2013 and Wallace a year later.
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|Food City Dirt Race Information|
|What||Food City Dirt Race (NASCAR Cup Series)|
|Where||Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track|
|When||Saturday, April 17, 7 p.m. ET|
|How to Watch||FOX|
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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