2021 Food City Dirt Race Betting Guide

food-city-dirt-image-1

On Sunday, March 28th, NASCAR heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for its annual Food City race and the first of two trips to this hallowed short track. However, this weekend’s race isn’t like any other race on the calendar. In fact, it’s unlike anything we’ve seen in 50 years.

The Food City race will be at Bristol, but the track will be covered in dirt. This race marks the first time since 1970 that the Cup Series has run on a dirt track. Yet, it’s an homage to the history of this sport and an exciting change for the last few generations of NASCAR fans.

Considering that all of the drivers in the field weren’t even born when the Cup Series had its last dirt race, this weekend’s Food City Dirt Race will be a unique experience for drivers, teams and sports bettors.

Another indicator of the unique challenge that dirt racing poses on the field is the group of drivers that are the betting favorites for the Food City Dirt Race.

According to most online sportsbooks, Kyle Larson is the clear cut betting favorite. He’s followed by names that don’t usually crack the Top 10, let alone Top 5, with Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Chase Briscoe.

With our Food City Dirt Race betting preview, we will be taking a deeper dive into how this entire dirt race will work along with putting on our safety gear, revving up our engines, and making some checkered flag winning predictions.

Race Profile

This will be the same Bristol Motor Speedway venue that we’re accustomed to seeing twice a year. However, the major difference will be that the concrete track is covered in dirt.

The Speedway has a lap distance of .533 miles with all four turns featuring 22 to 24 degrees of banking, which is lower than the traditional 26 to 30 degrees of banking. Additionally, the straights will have 9 degrees of banking, which is on par with the traditional concrete configuration.

Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race breaks down as follows:

Total Miles: 133.25 miles
Total Laps: 250 laps
Stage 1: First 75 laps
Stage 2: Second 75 laps
Final Stage: Remaining 100 laps

The Food City Dirt Race is set to begin at 3:30 PM ET and will air live on FOX.

The countdown begins. @BMSupdates ⏳ pic.twitter.com/x9U5UHzJ9q

— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 22, 2021

What to Watch for at Bristol

This weekend’s dirt race is a first in over 50 years. The following storylines are worth keeping an eye on at Bristol:

How will the drivers handle this dirt track?
How will the dirt racing specialists fare?
Can Kyle Larson win as expected?
Will the non-competition pit stops impact the race?
Will we see a new driver get their first win?

How Will Qualifying Work?

Qualifying will be dramatically different for NASCAR this week. Instead of the standard qualifying process, this week’s format will be as follows:

Four qualifying heats of 15 laps each
A random draw will determine heat assignments
Same random draw will determine starting spots in each heat
Points are earned by finishing result and number of cars passed
The total number of points will determine starting grid for the race

As you can see, not only are there some major differences, but they will actually make the qualifying process even more enjoyable to watch. The Food City Dirt Race qualifying can be seen on Saturday, March 27th, beginning at 6pm ET on FS1.

No Competitive Pit Stops

Earlier this month, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller explained the changed rules for pit stops in the upcoming dirt race:

“If we had green-flag stops or changed tires under yellow, that would get us to a competitive pit road. With dirt tires, dirt on concrete, who knows what the traction’s going to be like, having pit crews running around out there under those circumstances, running around in a not-clean pit box, we just felt was not something that we were going to do, and it would potentially create an unsafe environment, so we had to take the actual competitive element out of the pit stops for predominantly safety reasons.”

Basically, we will be watching a race where there are no pit stops except for in-between stage breaks or cars that are involved in accidents.

This is going to be an exciting change as it will add another layer of entertainment to the Food City dirt race.

It should also be noted that there will be no choosing which line for restarts. That means drivers can’t choose between the inside and outside lines like we’re accustomed to seeing in almost all NASCAR races.

Previous Food City Dirt Race Winners

The first edition of the Food City Bristol race was in 1961 and won by Joe Weatherly. For the next 30 years, those races were run on an asphalt track.

From 1993 until 2020, the races were run on a concrete track. This will be the first Cup Series race run on dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Since there haven’t been any dirt races run on this track in the history of NASCAR’s Cup Series, we don’t have a list of previous winners to analyze and help with our NASCAR betting.

NASCAR Food City Dirt Race Betting Odds

The following betting odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

Kyle Larson (+225)
Christopher Bell (+550)
Austin Dillon (+900)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr (+1000)
Chase Briscoe (+1200)
Stewart Friesen(+1400)
Chase Elliott (+1600)
Kyle Busch (+1600)
Tyler Reddick (+1600)
Darrell Wallace Jr (+2000)
Ryan Blaney (+2000)
Denny Hamlin (+2500)
Chris Windom (+2800)
Martin Truex Jr (+2800)
Alex Bowman (+3300)
Joey Logano (+3300)
Kevin Harvick (+3300)
Mike Marlar (+3300)
Brad Keselowski (+4000)
Kurt Busch (+4000)
Ryan Newman (+4000)
Shane Golobic (+4000)
Erik Jones (+5000)
Matt DiBenedetto (+5000)
Cole Custer (+6600)
Ty Dillon (+6600)
William Byron (+6600)
Aric Almirola (+8000)
Ross Chastain (+8000)
Chris Buescher (+10000)

Food City Dirt Race Betting Favorites

According to most NASCAR betting sites, the following drivers are considered the odds on favorites to win the Food City Dirt Race from Bristol due to their past success in dirt racing.

Since there’s no recent history for Cup Series dirt races, the data in the table is for each driver’s 2021 season to date.

Driver
Wins
Top 5
Top 10
Avg Start
Avg Finish
DNF
Kyle Larson
1
3
5
8.2
9.0
0
Christopher Bell
1
1
3
8.0
12.0
0
Austin Dillon
0
1
2
11.2
14.0
0
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
0
0
0
15.3
14.0
0
Chase Briscoe
0
0
0
25.3
22.5
0

Kyle Larson (+225)

Top 5 (-225)
Top 10 (-560)

Larson enters this weekend’s race sitting 2nd in the standings, roughly 43 points back of Denny Hamlin. However, he moved ahead of Hamlin to be first in Playoff Points.

Larson has one win, three Top 5s, five Top 10s, and three Stage wins in six Cup Series races. He’s also led the most laps this season.

Since his 30th at Daytona’s road race, Larson has four straight Top 7 results including a win at Las Vegas. He dominated last weekend at Atlanta only to get passed in the final laps by Ryan Blaney. Larson led 269 laps, won both stages, and came home in second place.

In 12 previous Bristol starts, he has no wins, two Top 5s, seven Top 10s, a 14.4 average finish and 1 DNF. However, I expect the dirt surface to improve his chances to score his best mark at this track. Larson has finished runner up twice at Bristol.

Larson has had a good amount of success in his dirt racing career. Yet, after he was suspended from NASCAR last year, Larson would go on to have one of the greatest seasons of dirt track racing in the history of the sport.

He ended up winning 46 dirt races in 2020, which is unheard of. He won his second consecutive Chili Bowl Midget Nationals and the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series events.

When it comes to dirt racing in NASCAR, he does have one victory which came in 2016 when took the checkered flag for the Truck Series dirt race held in Eldora each year.

Larson, along with a handful of other Cup Series drivers, competed in last week’s series of dirt races comprising the Bristol Dirt Nationals.

In the Super Late Model A main feature last Friday, Larson finished second. He followed that up the next day with another runner up in the 40-lap Super Late Model race. Larson lost those races to the two best dirt track drivers today.

He’s clearly the man to beat this weekend as Kyle will be a Top 10, Top 5, and Top 3 car on Sunday.

Christopher Bell (+550)

Top 5 (+125)
Top 10 (-215)

By all accounts, 2021 has already been a huge success for Christopher Bell. He has a victory on the season which almost guarantees him to make the Playoffs. Furthermore, he has one Top 5, three Top 10s and a 12.3 average finish. He’s 9th in the standings and 7th in Playoff Points.

Bell had a rough ride last weekend in Atlanta where he finished 21st overall. That was the worse finish of the season for the #20 car. However, he now heads to the dirt track where Bell has a lot of experience racing in this type of environment.

Like Larson, Bell has had a prolific career in dirt racing. He’s won dozens of races on the dirt tracks and is the only the third driver to have ever won the Chili Bowl Nationals three times. He actually did it three straight years before Larson took the mantle.

For a driver like Bell, this weekend’s race is a fantastic opportunity to get a second win on the season and really cement his spot in the Playoffs.

I see Bell being a Top 10, Top 5 and Top 3 car on Sunday. He will give Larson a run for the checkered flag.

Austin Dillon (+900)

Top 5 (+200)
Top 10 (-125)

Dillon enters this race sitting 11th in the standings and 14th in Playoff Points. He has one Top 5, two Top 10s, and a 14.0 average finish on the season.

Last weekend, Dillon finished 6th in Atlanta which is his first Top 10 since finishing 3rd in the Daytona 500.

Now, he heads to the dirt tracks where Dillon has run well at earlier in his career. And, that’s a good thing considering Dillon hasn’t fared well on the concrete surface of Bristol with just one Top 5, three Top 10s, and a 17.0 average finish at BMS.

ACED IT! ♠️ @austindillon3 wins the 604 Late Model at the #BristolDirt Nationals! pic.twitter.com/PHFtW3uTMn

— Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals (@BristolDirt) March 21, 2021

Like with Bell, this weekend’s race could be a big chance for Dillon to get a win on the season and a spot in the Playoffs.

Dillon also competed in the Bristol Dirt Nationals last week and had a lot of success. He won a heat and then picked up two victories in the 604 Late Models class. Austin had the most success of any NASCAR driver in the Dirt Nationals.

Dillon’s dirt racing success spans beyond his recent accomplishments as he also won the inaugural Truck Series dirt race ad Eldora in 2013.

Dillon shared his thoughts about how this dirt race will affect the Cup Series:

“I think there’s some guys with less dirt experience that are going to be surprised. But there’s so many good race car drivers at the Cup level that have dirt experience or some sort of dirt experience they’ll be able to lean on. Not many of the guys at this point in the Cup level – maybe, a couple – have ever not been on dirt. I think everybody has some form of dirt experience at this point. It’s just different, and I’m glad it came from around here, because I feel like I’ve ran on it a lot and know when it has grip and when it doesn’t.”

Go ahead and pencil Dillon to be a Top 10 and Top 5 car. He should also be one of the only drivers to compete with Larson and Bell for the checkered flag.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr (+1000)

Top 5 (+280)
Top 10 (+120)

Stenhouse enters this race sitting 17th in the standings and Playoff Points as well. He has yet to finish in the Top 10 for a race this season, but has never finished worse than 18th. That’s a 14.0 average finish on the year with four straight Top 13 results.

For Stenhouse, adding dirt to Bristol is probably a good thing. He’s tallied three straight DNFs at this track and has a 17.2 average finish in 16 career starts.

At first, Stenhouse was disappointed to lose a regular Bristol race since this has been one of his favorite venues since he was a kid. However, he quickly saw how entertaining and fun the Bristol Dirt Nationals were and is now excited for the dirt track.

Stenhouse would also comment on what he thinks will happen on Sunday:

“Obviously, some of the guys ran late models at Bristol last weekend. They will be comfortable with how everything looks. But I think everyone will be anxious to get in their Cup cars and see how they drive. It will be totally different than anything else we’ve driven on dirt, especially at Bristol.”

I see the #47 car having his best result of the season. He does have some dirt track racing background and has fared well in those events. Stenhouse will be a Top 10 car with a Top 5 ceiling.

Chase Briscoe (+1200)

Top 5 (+215)
Top 10 (-115)

Chase Briscoe is in his first season as a full time Cup Series driver after moving up from the Xfinity Series. Currently, he sits 26th in the standings with zero Top 5s or Top 10s, and a 22.5 average finish on the season. He’s had three straight results that have hit that average right on the head.

Yet, for Briscoe, this Sunday’s race is a huge opportunity for a driver that has had a good amount of success in dirt racing. In fact, he has the most to gain out of any driver in the field as Briscoe won’t have a better shot at winning a race this season.

When @ChaseBriscoe_14 steps on the dirt at @BMSupdates, it will feel like home.

Chase Briscoe’s Return to Dirt: https://t.co/i5g0Rk81vc pic.twitter.com/Z0op4HV1R3

— Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) March 25, 2021

The young driver realizes the magnitude of this opportunity:

“I think it’s a great opportunity to go run good, just from an experience standpoint. I’ll be one of the guys in the field that probably has more dirt experience than a lot of them, so this is really gonna be the only week maybe outside of the Indy road course all year long where I actually have experience where the Cup field doesn’t, so being able to hopefully use that advantage. It could be a huge boost to our team.”

Briscoe dominated the Xfinity Series last year with nine wins. However, he’s really struggling to be competitive in the Cup Series. The Food City Dirt Race could be just what the doctor ordered for the 26 year old.

I believe Briscoe will be a Top 10 car with a Top 5 ceiling. His level of desperation will be higher than most others in the field considering his limited amount of opportunities to win a Cup Series race this season.

The Best Food City Dirt Race Betting Value

The following NASCAR drivers offer betting value for the Food City Dirt Race due to their current betting odds, their past success in dirt racing, and their 2021 season so far. The data in the table represents each driver’s results for this season to date.

Driver
Wins
Top 5
Top 10
Avg Start
Avg Finish
DNF
Chase Elliott
0
2
2
7.2
15.5
1
Kyle Busch
0
2
3
14.7
15.3
1
Joey Logano
0
2
3
8.2
10.8
1

Chase Elliott (+1600)

Top 5 (+300)
Top 10 (+120)

The reigning Cup Series champ has had an up and down season so far. He has two Top 5s and two Top 10s, but he dropped from 5th in the driver standings to 9th after blowing an engine last weekend at Atlanta and finishing 38th overall.

Now, he will head to Bristol where he’s fared well at on concrete, but can he duplicate that on the dirt? In 10 starts at BMS, Elliott has three Top 5s, five Top 10s, and a 12.1 average finish. Those are solid numbers for short track racing.

Elliott competed in the Bristol Dirt Nationals last week, but didn’t have the same level of success as his peers. He ended up in a multi-car crash with 11 laps left which resulted in a 17th place result.

Speaking ahead of the Dirt Nationals, Elliott gave us a glimpse into his thought process heading into this weekend’s NASCAR race:

“I don’t really know what else to do from that front. Just go up there and give it a shot. Lean on some help from friends who have been around those cars for a long time and hope I can get going and pick up on it quick. That’s about all I can do.”

I don’t see Elliott being a contender for the checkered flag or even a Top 5 spot. But, I do like his value with finishing in the Top 10. Elliott is a talented driver and he could surprise us this Sunday.

Kyle Busch (+1600)

Top 5 (+280)
Top 10 (+110)

After finishing 25th two weeks ago at Phoenix, Busch bounced back in Atlanta last weekend with a 5th place result. That bumped him up to 12th in the standings as he heads to Bristol.

Unfortunately, for Busch, this race isn’t on the concrete surface as the 2019 Cup Series champ has had a lot of success at BMS.

Kyle Busch is not a dirt guy and he explains why he didn’t want to race the Eldora truck race — and what his outlook is for this weekend at Bristol: pic.twitter.com/LNC56NEjOv

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 23, 2021

In 31 career starts at Bristol, Busch has eight wins, 14 Top 5s, 19 Top 10s and a 12.8 average finish. Furthermore, in the last seven races at this track, Busch has three wins, six Top 5s, and six Top 10s. He had won this race two of the last three years.

Now, Busch will have to try and bring his Bristol magic to the dirt track with the hopes of producing another solid result.

For the #18 car, there is some hope with this weekend’s dirt race. He finished second in a qualifying race at the Bristol Dirt Nationals last weekend and 11th in the featured race.

I see value with Busch’s Top 10 odds as I believe “Rowdy” can sneak his way into the Top 10 this weekend.

Joey Logano (+3300)

Top 5 (+500)
Top 10 (+180)

Logano has had an up and down season in terms of where he finishes. One weekend it’s outside the Top 10 and the next weekend it’s a Top 10 or Top 5 result.

Currently, Logano sits 3rd in the driver standings and 6th in Playoff Points. He has two Top 5s, three Top 10s, the third most laps led and one stage win. He was 15th last weekend in Atlanta.

It should come as no surprise that the 2018 Cup Series champ has some skills on the dirt track. He competed in a dirt track race last month and finished 3rd.

Despite the up and down season, Logano still finds a way to sneak into the Top 10 as he has a 10.8 average finish on the year. I believe he will find a way to crack the Top 10 on Sunday, which provides value for his Top 10 odds.

The Top Longshot to Win the Food City Dirt Race

Mike Marlar (+3300)

Top 3 (+850)
Top 10 (+190)

Not only will the Food City Dirt Race make history for NASCAR, but Mike Marlar will also make history as he competes in his first ever Cup Series race.

Marlar is a dirt track racer from East Tennessee and he’s very excited to compete in the highest level of stock car racing:

“This is such a cool opportunity for me being a dirt racer from East Tennessee being able to compete in the top series of Nascar at Bristol.”

Marlar has competed in the Truck Series with a debut in 2019. He raced the Eldora dirt event and finished 4th.

Marlar has numerous dirt track wins on his resume, but one that stands out is that he won the 2018 World of Outlaws championship.

He’s certainly a longshot despite his betting odds. I don’t see him winning, although it would be a fantastic story. Instead, I’m going with a Top 10 result which would still be great.

The Rest of the Field at the Food City Dirt Race

The following drivers are worth keeping an eye on in this weekend’s dirt race from Bristol:

Denny Hamlin (+2500) – Hamlin leads the Cup Series in the driver standings and is 2nd in Playoff Points. He also has the second most wins in NASCAR Cup Series history without a championship. He also doesn’t have a dirt background.

Hamlin made the following comments about this weekend’s event:

“It’s going to be interesting. These cars are asphalt cars. They’re not dirt cars. They don’t handle like them or drive like them. Who knows what we’re going to see? Certainly, the trucks have put on a great show at Eldora the last few years. But I am looking forward to the challenge and hoping these cars don’t fall apart. If that’s the case, I think we will put on a great show.”

Martin Truex Jr. (+2800) – Like most of the field, Truex doesn’t have a great deal of dirt experience. He currently sits 4th in the driver standings and 3rd in Playoff Points.

He does plan on running in the Truck Series this weekend to get some dirt track laps under his belt before the Food City event. Keep an eye on how he performs in that race.

Brad Keselowski (+4000) – Sitting 5th in the driver standings and 8th in Playoff Points, Keselowski got in a small dirt race last month. But, he doesn’t sound very confident heading into the Food City Dirt Race:

“250 laps, this might be the longest dirt race in history. I don’t just mean in laps, but the amount of time it’s going to take. Its going to be a tough, tough race. We don’t know what we don’t know, going into this race. Never ran this type of car on a dirt race. 50 years ago, that was like 1-2-3 generations ago.”

The Best Top 5 Bet for the Food City Dirt Race

Christopher Bell is the second odds on favorite to win this race, just behind Kyle Larson. Yet, he has very appealing Top 5 betting odds at +125.

Bell has a significant dirt track racing resume. Many pundits and even his peers feel that Bell will be one of the top drivers this weekend. I believe that will translate into a Top 5 result.

The Best Top 10 Bet for the Food City Dirt Race

Despite being the 3rd highest betting favorite, Austin Dillon has Top 10 odds of -110. That’s great value considering he has a solid dirt track background.

Most notably, Dillon had the most success out of all the NASCAR drivers who entered the Bristol Dirt Nationals last weekend. He won qualifying heat and multiple races. Dillon will compete with Bell and Larson for the checkered flag, which makes him a great Top 10 play.

Food City Dirt Race Checkered Flag

My Top 5 drivers for this race include four drivers with dirt track experience and Kyle Busch. Joining the #18 car are Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe.

Dillon and Briscoe have not won a race this season and are looking at the Food City Dirt Race as their chance to get a win. For Briscoe, it will be his best chance this season. Unfortunately, I don’t see either of them winning. I also don’t see Busch winning.

I believe the checkered flag will come down to Bell or Larson. Bell provides the better value and is worthy of a flier. But, Larson is on a roll this year and also had a monster dirt track season in 2020 during his suspension.

Kyle Larson will have Freightliner on board for the Bristol Dirt race this Sunday: pic.twitter.com/N6nvqRgtby

— Always Race Day (@AlwaysRaceDay) March 22, 2021

Larson should’ve won last weekend at Atlanta, but Blaney passed in him in the final laps. I see that loss motivating him this Sunday as the #5 car picks up his second win on the season.

My Top 5 Drivers

Kyle Larson
Christopher Bell
Austin Dillon
Chase Briscoe
Kyle Busch

Food City Dirt Race Betting Recap

Betting Value:

Chase Elliott (+1600)
Kyle Busch (+1600)
Joey Logano (+3300)

Longshot

Winner

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …

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