While most NASCAR Cup Series drivers are novices when it comes to racing on dirt, several drivers carry extensive dirt-track experience into this weekend’s event. Most notably among them are Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, two drivers who’ve also both already been to Victory Lane in 2021. Given their success on dirt and the significant number of laps they’ve logged on clay surfaces, Larson and Bell could easily be considered heavy favorites at Bristol. But are they?
“I would say Bristol is definitely a place where I should have an advantage, just having a dirt background, growing up like I did,” said Bell, whose impressive dirt-track resume includes three consecutive victories (2017-2019) in the famed Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. “It’s going to be interesting, though. The Cup Series is full of a lot of talented race car drivers, and these guys are going to figure it out. It’s a long-distance race, so I don’t think it’s going to be a normal dirt surface like I’m accustomed to racing on. Nonetheless, it’s still going to be dirt, and I should have an advantage.”
Larson, a winner of the last two Chili Bowls, is more reluctant than Bell to embrace the role of favorite. Larson won’t pin that label on Bell, either.
“I think it’s easy for race fans and media to probably point at us as being the favorites just because of our dirt experience,” Larson said. “But, honestly, I don’t think we are, really, because a midget car and a sprint car drive way different than a full-bodied stock car in general. And then you put it on dirt, and it’s going to be way different. So, just because the surface is dirt doesn’t mean that we’re going to be great.”