Cup Series Drivers Embrace ‘Going to School’ To Prep for Bristol Dirt

Cup Series

Getty Cup Series drivers embrace the opportunity to compete at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Cup Series drivers return to Bristol Motor Speedway at 7 p.m. on April 17. They will compete in their first dirt race of the Gen 7 era, which creates a significant amount of unknowns. However, the drivers are embracing the opportunity to gain both knowledge and experience while pursuing the win.

There were several drivers that explained how the 2022 dirt race will be a unique challenge ahead of the green flag. Martin Truex Jr. highlighted the updated banking that will put an emphasis on side-by-side racing. Alex Bowman specifically mentioned that it’s difficult to take this new style of stock car on the dirt, especially with the lack of notes available. Ross Chastain revealed that he has some experience on dirt, but it’s primarily due to his background in farming.

“I’ve been going to school to learn how to dirt race – how to read the dirt, what has grip, what does moisture look like, what’s the blue groove, what’s slicked off – I don’t know all of those terms,” Chastain explained, transcript courtesy of NASCAR Media. “Fortunately for me, a lot of the No. 1 team guys are old dirt racers, sprint car guys that came over because of Kyle (Larson) to be on the No. 42 team and are now on the No. 1 team. I work with (Tyler) Reddick, (Alex) Bowman, Larson, and Josh Wise. Between those four guys, they’ve forgotten more about dirt racing than I have ever learned, so I’ll lean on them a lot. I’m used to dirt, but it has been on a tractor.”

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Multiple Drivers Significantly Changed Their Bristol Odds

Dirt Race

GettyTyler Reddick (right) improved his odds during the opening heat race.

The top drivers in the Cup Series have virtually no experience on the dirt version of Bristol in the Gen 7 cars. They took part in two, 50-minute practice sessions before competing in 15-lap heat races. Some achieved success with spots near the front of the pack while others struggled, resulting in altered race-day odds.

BetMGM released the updated odds ahead of the green flag and revealed that some drivers had made significant moves. Chastain dropped from 22-1 down to 33-1 after finishing last in the opening heat race. Cole Custer moved up from 80-1 to 40-1 after starting last in that same heat race and working his way up to second place. He secured the Busch Light Pole for the Food City Dirt Race (7 p.m. ET, FOX) and improved his overall odds.

Tyler Reddick, who has shown speed throughout the season, made a significant improvement after winning the opening heat race. He entered the weekend at 14-1 odds, but he moved up to 8-1 odds prior to the green flag. This is third overall behind Kyle Larson (9-2) and Christopher Bell (7-1).


NASCAR Will Incorporate Unique Rule Changes

The move to the dirt racing surface will not be the only major change for the Cup Series race on dirt. The stock cars will have new mandatory equipment in mud flaps, and they will not win the race with a faster trip down pit road.

NASCAR implemented a new rule for the Food City Dirt Race. Teams are not allowed to go down pit road for fuel or to change tires until the end of each stage. The only exception is if they have a flat. NASCAR officials will give teams the option to pit at the end of each stage, and they will have several minutes to work on their cars.

Cars can not gain or lose position by staying on pit road longer than others that headed in for fresh tires, fuel, or adjustments. However, the cars that elected to stay out on the track will move ahead of them upon the restart. Once the field is lined up again, they will finish their caution laps before taking the green flag in assigned positions. There will not be a choose rule for the Food City Dirt Race.

“I come from a dirt background, so this race really brings me back to my roots,” Tyler Reddick said ahead of the Cup Series race. “It’s a cool race because the teams get the chance to work on the cars during the breaks. You’ve got teams trying all kinds of things to improve the car in ways that we don’t get to on a typical race weekend. … This race feels so different than our usual race weekends, but points matter and your finish matters so I’m excited to get out there and get us points and a W on dirt.”

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