This weekend is the long-awaited return to dirt for the NASCAR Cup Series. It has been over 50 years since the stock cars’ premiere series raced on the Georgia clay. A lot has changed in those 50 years and the amount of drivers with dirt racing backgrounds has grown tremendously which makes this weekend very unpredictable. Due to this unpredictability, we decided to make a list of five drivers you should keep your eye on throughout the weekend.
Kyle Larson has stood higher than the rest when it comes to racing on dirt throughout the past couple of years. His story is well-known, he started racing outlaw karts at age 7 and has been winning virtually everything since. He has over 20 wins in the World of Outlaws series and over fifty wins over the past year. The biggest coming in the Chili Bowl where he has been the winner the past two years, as well as the winner at Eldora in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016. All eyes have been on Larson since the announcement of a dirt race this season and no eyes will be taken off until the checkered flag flies.
Much like Kyle, Christopher Bell has been dominating the dirt racing scene every time he jumps into a race car. Bell won in the Truck Series at Eldora Speedway in 2016 and put together a trio of Chili Bowl championships from 2017-2019, elevating him as one of the highest drivers in everyone’s fantasy leagues. His talent level is through the roof and his fast start to the season adds to the expectations to battle for it all this weekend.
Austin’s name is rarely associated with the large dirt racing world but Dillon has shown his strengths in it through the years. Since 2012 he has made select WoO starts and has picked up a few wins including a 2015 UMP Modified win at Volusia Speedway. His biggest highlight on dirt came in the Inaugural 2013 Mud Summer Classic where Dillon led 64 laps for a historic win at Eldora. He has the experience when it comes to wheeling heavy stock cars around dirt tracks and that experience is what’s needed at Bristol.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Before his back-to-back Xfinity Series championships, Ricky started on winged midgets running all around Mississippi. He won the rookie of the year honors in 2003 and once he made his way into USAC, he won the rookie of the year title in both sprint car and midget series in 2007. He had a ton of talent on dirt since the start and that has carried over to his World of Outlaws wins over the years. One of which, most recently came earlier this month at the Deep South Speedway.
Canada’s Stewart Friesen will be making his Cup Series debut for Spire Motorsports this weekend. After running the past three Camping World Truck seasons, he will pilot the no 77 car. Stewart’s resume on dirt is incredible after running mostly in the North East for most of his career. He is said to have around 330 wins in dirt modifieds and is a 4x track champion at Fonda Speedway. He is known to be one of the most aggressive and polarizing on dirt and that surely will not change with the lack of powerhouse equipment in Cup. The similarities between a dirt modified and a Cup Series car might seem like day and night but their heavy bodies could be the advantage Friesen needs to make his way through the pack in a still fairly new team. Not to mention, he does have a win at Eldora in the Truck Series.
‘Unpredictable’ is the word leading into a very historic weekend but the names above and the experience and could be the difference between having your names in the history books or going unnoticed during Sunday’s 250- lap event.