THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR heads for the Dirt at Bristol
The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Thunder Valley for the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Because of the special circumstances of this race, the format will be much different from what we are accustomed to seeing on a typical race weekend. Instead of qualifying, there will be four heat races that determine the starting grid for the main event on Saturday night. There will also be points awarded to the top ten. The drivers that improved their positions will also be awarded passing points as well. The driver with the most passing points will start from the pole. The race on Saturday will be broken up into three stages and there will be no live pit stops during the race. This will certainly be an interesting race as the cars will have plenty of new modifications, including mud flaps. It should be interesting to see how this race differs from last year’s.
Last week, William Byron thoroughly dominated en route to his second victory of 2022. The race was heavily criticized by fans as there wasn’t a whole lot of passing up-front. When the race was over, there were a mere six lead changes. Many even suggested shortening races from 400 miles to 300. This is yet another example of NASCAR fans overreacting to a bad race, as they do each week. It seems like to some of these people that if there isn’t a memorable finish in every race, they want drastic changes to the product, and it’s becoming more and more ridiculous. This is a sport that has undergone many changes over the year trying to cater to this type of fan, and it needs to stop.
Regardless of the criticism, William Byron is becoming more and more of a threat each week as he became the first repeat winner of 2022. He has also finished in the top five in four of the last five races. When Byron first started competing in the Cup Series, he struggled a bit. He would string together good finishes but was not able to capitalize and get his first victory until his third season in 2020. After that, he has consistently been in the top five on a weekly basis and has been able to contend for wins. The biggest factor in his success has to be his crew chief, Rudy Fugle. He has certainly helped when it comes to setting up the racecar and getting the feedback from his driver that is needed. Both have also done a great job at race strategy, as Byron has scored the most stage points of anyone so far. This team will certainly make a deep run when we get closer to the playoffs.
One driver that has been really impressive as of late has been Austin Dillon. After back-to-back crashes at Phoenix and Atlanta, Dillon has really been able to rebound strongly, with two tenth place finishes and a third last week at Martinsville. His team Richard Childress Racing seemed to struggle a bit after Kevin Harvick departed in 2013 for Stewart-Haas Racing. But now it seems like they are finding their way back to being a competitive team again. Both of their drivers are knocking on the door. Look out for both Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon down the line, they are bound to surprise a few folks.
With all of that being said, the driver that I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. Overall, 2022 has been a consistently good season for Chase. He’s the points leader with the third most amount of stage points accumulated and has five top-ten finishes. While his stats at this race last year weren’t overly impressive, he was solid and was able to score a tenth place finish. Another major factor to look out for is the experience he will get in Friday’s truck race, as he will drive the #7 truck for Spire Motorsports. While it may not seem like a lot, of the three drivers that have driven the truck to start the weekend, (Austin Hill, Alex Bowman, and William Byron) two of them have gone on to win in the series they score points in. Having these drivers run this truck has clearly helped them in some way, this is a great sign for Chase. Look for Elliott to pick up his first win of 2022 come Saturday.