As food safety and sanitation officers watch on in horror, NASCAR’s Food City Dirt Race takes over Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, adding a unique twist to a classic track.
As the NASCAR Cup Series odds continue to evolve, one familiar name moving up the board is 2021 champ Kyle Larson, who’s fresh off a win last weekend, and primed for another in Bristol, according to oddsmakers tabbing him as the favorite.
Let’s get down and dirty (just maybe not in a supermarket) as we preview the field with our Food City Dirt Race odds. Also, be sure to check back here later this week for a full race analysis and betting picks.
Odds to win 2023 Food City Dirt Race
|Driver||Odds to win|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||+2,000|
|Martin Truex Jr.||+2,500|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of April 4, 2023.
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Food City Dirt Race field
Kyle Larson comes in as the favorite again this week, and with very good reason. He’s a past winner at Bristol, performed very well here last year, and has been one of this season’s more consistent drivers — including a win at Richmond last weekend.
His +550 odds are best among a top tier that also includes Tyler Reddick (+600) and Christopher Bell (+650) available lower than 10:1, on what’s seen as a fairly chalky track despite the dirt variable.
Reddick was the runner-up in this race last year and is clearly ascendant in the Cup Series, already with a COTA win on this young season after torching down the stretch of 2022. Bell was seventh (dirt) and fourth in the two Bristol races last season, and has been very impressive in 2023, with Top-6 finishes in five of seven races so far.
The contenders for this race are also fairly clearly defined, with a further eight drivers available at +2,000 or better, including defending Cup Series champ Joey Logano (+1,000) and reigning Dirt Race king Ross Chastain (+1,500).
Food City Dirt Race picks and predictions
Food City Dirt Race favorites
Kyle Larson (+550)
Arguably the top dirt racer in the game today. It’s crazy to think that he’s 0-for-2 here. However, he did start on the pole in 2021, then finished fifth after leading 27 laps last year. Coming into this weekend on the heels of a Richmond win, and seeing how dominant Hendrick Motorsports has been this season, there’s no reason to believe that Larson can’t win Sunday’s race.
Tyler Reddick (+600)
He was seventh in the inaugural edition in 2021 and runner-up last year after leading 99 laps and being two corners away from victory. To enter with three Top-5 finishes in the last four weeks gives me reason to pick him this weekend.
Christopher Bell (+650)
Bell is off to a strong start this season (5 Top-6’s in the first seven weeks) and is honestly as good as Larson is on dirt tracks. He started second and finished seventh a year ago, and is in a prime position to believe that he can score his first victory of the season under the lights on Sunday.
Food City Dirt Race sleepers
Alex Bowman (+2500)
A dirt guy growing up with a finish of sixth last year. He’s started in Row 4 (seventh, eighth) in both events too. On the season, Bowman has a Top-10 finish in all but once race run too.
Daniel Suarez (+2500)
Suarez was fourth in 2021 after leading 58 laps. While he was only 12th last year, he led another 64 laps in the process. He’s reeling entering this weekend after having three straight races in which he finished outside the Top 20. However, Bristol Dirt is a good course for him to get back on track.
Justin Haley (+8000)
He’s been great on dirt tracks and was 14th as a rookie last year. I expect a good night out of him on Sunday.
Food City Dirt Race fades
William Byron (+1000)
He was sixth in 2021 but just 18th a year ago. Byron doesn’t come from a dirt background, which is why despite having fast race cars this season, I’m punting on him.
Ross Chastain (+1500)
Arguably his worst track on the schedule with a pair of sub-30th place finishes (35th, 33rd).
Denny Hamlin (+1800)
Started second and finished third in 2021, but was only 35th after experiencing engine issues a year ago. He’s only had two Top-10 finishes all season.
Food City Dirt Race prop pick: William Byron (-120) vs. Joey Logano (+100)
Not real sure why Joey Logano is getting plus-money in this matchup, but it’s worth cashing in. Logano won the inaugural race here and was strong a year ago. I struggle to think he’ll win twice in three years, however, can he finish ahead of Byron? Absolutely.
Logano has beaten Byron in both Bristol Dirt races. While Byron has more speed than Logano this season, dirt is an equalizer because the speed in the first seven races won’t translate over at all to this weekend.
Pick: Logano (+100 at DraftKings)
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Food City Dirt Race track analysis
This will be the third ever race on this track so there’s not much history or trends to witness here. The inaugural race was run during daytime conditions, while the second edition last year was held under the lights.
Last year’s race was vastly better than the year prior because of that change.
The 2021 race was being questioned from the get-go for even trying to race during the day. There’s a reason most dirt tracks across the country stage races at night.
That’s because of a combination of the moisture and ambient conditions and the dirt in the track. At night, there’s natural moisture in the air, which helps advance a better racing surface. It’s better to have a dirt race at night, rather than during the day, to help with track prep too.
Well, 250 laps around a dirt track during the day could cause this to become a one groove race track too. That’s exactly what happened for the inaugural year.
All that rain that fell in the eastern Tennessee mountains plus a day race created a mess. The track got so dry, it was hard to even see as it became a dusty one groove race track.
250 laps for 40 cars that weigh 3,400 pounds isn’t ideal for a makeshift dirt track. So, conditions have to be perfect and running during the day already starts off on the wrong footing.
Last year, the race was scheduled for a nighttime event. It greatly helped the show.It didn’t take in rubber, and created multiple lanes to pass on.
Rubber settling into a race track is a good thing for asphalt tracks, but not for dirt. With that many laps, if the track rubbers in as the race goes on, we may not be in store for a very good show. Nighttime helps with that.
The other factor is that there’s not any live pit stops. You can only pit during stage breaks. So, that will allow for some strategy calls. With the first two stages only being 75 laps in length, one would figure that you can go until the end of the second stage without having to pit for fuel. If you stay out, you stay up front and don’t lose spots to those who did pit. That in turn leads to the question, how important are tires going to be? Is it a benefit to pit for tires at the end of both stage breaks, or will you have some roll the dice and gamble on just staying out?
If tires aren’t a factor, then you may see two separate strategy calls. How many pit at the end of the first stage and know that they can go the final 175 laps until the end without needing to stop? That means you just pit once all day and not again?
The flip side of that is, how many stay out after the first stage and use the stage break for Stage 2 (Lap 150) to pit for their first and only time?
That’s two varying strategies that you know some may use.
All this could be the reason as to why a 30-1 driver on the inaugural race and a 16-1 driver won last year.
The top six finishers of the 2021 race had odds entering the race of 30-1 (Logano), 14-1 (Stenhouse Jr.), 25-1 (Hamlin), 100-1 (Suarez), 50-1 (Newman) and 66-1 (Byron). Martin Truex Jr. (25-1) led the most laps.
Last year, it was 18-1 Busch followed by Reddick (14-1), Logano (8-1), Larson (6-1) and Blaney (16-1).
So, how much does dirt experience truly play?
Food City Dirt Race trends
- Starting position hasn’t mattered here. The winners started 10th and 11th, respectively. In fact, the inaugural race saw 11 of the Top 14 finishers each start outside the Top 10 that day.
- In both races, the pole winner failed to lead a single lap. Kyle Larson finished 29th from the pole in 2021, and Cole Custer 13th a year ago.
- Also, in both races, the second place starter has just one total lap led too. Denny Hamlin led just a single lap in 2021. Christopher Bell failed to lead a lap last year and finished seventh.
- Both winners did score stage points in both stages of their respective race.
- Stage 1 finish: 6th (2021), 5th (2022)
- Stage 2 finish: 1st (2021), 5th (2022)
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