It's the second year of the Bristol Dirt race........and I'm not sure we know much more than we did last year. At all.
It's the second modern era Cup race on the dirt at Bristol, and we have very little other sample size to help us model who is good on dirt and who else could be. The Trucks ran last year at Knoxville (Iowa) and have about a half-dozen recent races at Eldora to give us a little history. ARCA used to run a few dirt races, but not a ton recently whose participants are likely to be relevant this weekend.
What we do know is that accidents & attrition made a mess of the Cup finishes last year. So, we may have to treat this one like a Daytona or Talladega situation, where we can't fall too much in love with one driver or one bet.
Last year, the top two dirt drivers in the field wrecked each other early, took Ross Chastain with them, and ended up back around 30th.......luckily, those two guys are the favorites again for this Sunday.
Dirt Track Reputation Guys
Everyone swears Kyle Larson is the greatest dirt track racer on Earth. But if he is, he honestly could be too cheap this week at +550. He's fast everywhere, albeit faster last year, and this is his surface. Like some Spanish dude on clay at the French Open. This should be his show. NASCAR even took his instruction on how to better prep the track this year and how to steepen or grade the dirt to the wall at Bristol. Am guessing this will help the dirt track and steep track guys in our models.
He was fast early after being sent to the back for an engine change last year, but got tied up in a wreck with Christopher Bell (+800 or so) and the two best drivers in the simulation went 29th and 34th. That was two stupid nights in a row for Larson, who was also favored to win the Bristol Dirt Trucks last year.....but got wrecked.
The other guys that everyone swears is awesome on dirt is Chase Briscoe, already a winner once this season. In his first year in Cup, he was running well before a wreck sent him to 20th at Bristol Dirt, following a 5th the night before in Trucks on the same Bristol Dirt. Briscoe opened here pretty much +1400 across the board, but the best play may be Top 3s at +400 or cheaper.
Bell, Larson and Briscoe are all past winners in the Eldora Trucks.
The other guy who only wants to race dirt and super-speedways is Ricky Stenhouse, who's a +2500 deep threat for the win. He had his most mature race of the year, stayed out of trouble and was second at Bristol Dirt last spring. Same deal, but seeing cheaper podiums and the Top 10 for +105 at Barstool feels as good an idea as any.
Who Was Actually Good Last Year?
Well, Joey Logano won last year, leading 61 laps out of 250, but never really dominating. He was consistent, stayed near the front, and no mistakes befell him. He feels like he's sixth every week, but was a winner here last year......albeit in the more powerful 750hp package. He's not a guy with a ton of dirt history, but never looked out of sorts.
You could say the same for Denny Hamlin, who ended up a nice safe 3rd as the field winnowed down. He led a single lap, and never felt like he was going to run away from the field either. Only 19 cars made it on the lead lap, speaking of attrition.
The best car, the most dominant Cup car didn't win Bristol Dirt last year. Martin Truex led 126 laps- half the race- but also got wrecked and ended up a crowd-pleasing 19th. He had dominated and did win the Trucks race the night before. 105 out of 150 laps for him there.
Again, not known specifically as a great dirt driver, he is considered the best flat-track driver on the circuit and there is a lot of carryover in those skills. But yeah, he dominated both races and only won the Trucks. He's +1400. And, I know Toyota has been mostly garbage this year......but this track has little to do with aero. Am not scared of Bell or Truex for Toyota reasons. Will sprinkle some +1400 to Win and Top 3 or Top 5 where the prices are best.
If you have Bally in your state, their Top 5 prices are too bettor friendly. Doubt that will last, but for folks in like six states, pile in.
More so, it has nothing to do with pit stops. There will be no green flag stops in this race. So, the Hendrick pit crews can't save those guys. And the Blaney pit crew can't ruin it for Ryan.
Who Else Has A Shot?
Well, the guys who have been fast all year are still fast. And seemingly more so than most any year before, being recently fast, agnostic of track type, has been more predictive than going down the "similar track" skills rabbit holes.
William Byron is fast. Every week. So is Ryan Blaney. Byron has won twice, Blaney should have won already based on his average green flag speed numbers and the like.
Blaney's family seems to have invented dirt track racing in northern Ohio, but the bulk of his work has been pavement. He's as cheap as +1600 and as cheap as +480 for a Top 3. He was 8th here last year.
Byron was sixth in Bristol Dirt last year, and you just assume he will be competitive every week. Pretty much +1200 across the board, with cheap Top 5/10s at Barstool so far.
Chase Elliott also feels fast every week, and without green flag pit stops this week, it will be harder for him to get on a dumb stop strategy. 10th here last year, and is running the Trucks race for extra seat time. Smart. So is Logano.
Extra Seat Time?
Elliott is running the Trucks, along with Logano as co-favorites. Austin Dillon is a shockingly above average dirt racer, winning one of the Eldora Truck events. He has been almost an auto-bet for Top 10s the last few weeks. He's +2000 in mediocre equipment in Trucks, but +4000 in Cup. Playing him with +170 for a Top 10 as long as that holds at Barstool. Awaiting good matchups.
Avoid These Guys......
I don't care if Harrison Burton is running a spare Truck, I have no faith in him either night. Almirola, Harvick and Suarez have no appeal to me this week, at all. Suarez pulled a magic trick to get to 4th last year after showing no signs of ever doing anything on dirt and not haveng a ton of green flag speed. Can go short on him in matchups, probably. Briscoe with heavy juice (-155 at MGM) is matched to him in featured matchups at most of the books.
Feels like the bloom is off Bowman right now and I doubt this is a place he gets well. Around 20th last year here. See value in matchup with Byron over him in the -115 to 120 area as posted.
Dirt Track Wild Cards, Either Race
There are plenty of guys who could steal a race, if we lose half the field to attrition again. Or, more easily, just script them with some plus-money Top 10 bets.
Bubba Wallace is a really good dirt track racer. Won one at Eldora in Trucks, had decent green flag speed last year in both races. Got wrecked in Cup, 11th in Trucks. Opened at +7500 at Caesars (+3000 to 4000 everywhere), and is a fun Top 10 at +170 at BS.
We are playing Ross Chastain at +3000 or cheaper until he wins or gets slow. Last week at Martinsville, he opened at +3500, seemed uncompetitive all day and then snuck into like fifth. Same deal, DART to win at +3000 or 3500 and then sprinkle Top 5 or Top 10 where its a good deal. Got caught in the early Larson/Bell wreck here last year.
I wish we could get Reddick at +3000 again, but while Chastain managed to win a race at COTA and not get more expensive in price, Reddick has been locked in at like +1600. A win is coming, he's great on dirt, but that price is not right unless you find something you like in matchups.
The two best deep values are probably Erik Jones, who now falls into that "fast every week" camp with Chastain & Reddick. He's cheap at +7500 at Caesars and a decent deal for a Top 10. He was 9th at Bristol Dirt last year, and his flat track skill translates well here.
I've seen a couple other smart touts also fall in love with Todd Gilliland this week. The Cup rookie is outperforming his equipment almost every week, and is a ludicrous +25000 long shot to win in Cup.
But, he's good on dirt in the small samples we have. 4th at Bristol Dirt in Trucks last year and 4th in Knoxville Dirt last year as well in Trucks. Best non-Cindric rookie on the Cup tour. Put a dollar on him to win, but put a quarter or similar on him to grab a Top 10 at Barstool. That's +700 if you hurry.
As for the Trucks race, with several Cup guys dropping down to get seat time, the odds to Win are skewed. We will have matchups for the subscribers. Deep threats and darts abound. Like Derek Kraus in matchups around his +4000 price (points in both stages last year). Ben Rhodes is underpriced every week. Bet we see him and Chandler Smith at nice prices for Top 5s.
Short Buddy Kofoid, Mike Marlar, Harrison Burton, DiBenedetto.