The top six finishers on NASCAR's Dirt Race at Bristol came from dirt-track backgrounds.
Christopher Bell’s victory Sunday night marked the first time a driver who came from dirt racing had won the event.
Second-place Tyler Reddick, pictured above, started his career in Sprint cars and dirt Late Models.
In the third year of the Food City Dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR Cup drivers with a dirt racing background swept the first six positions.
Christopher Bell’s victory Sunday night marked the first time a driver who came from dirt racing had won the event. He led 100 laps in the 250-lap race, and noted the track was a “tough” and “tricky” surface.
“It should have rewarded guys that kind of knew what to expect and how to get the car around the race track,” Bell said.
Bell competed in Micro-Sprint, Sprint Cars and the World of Outlaws before moving to NASCAR fulltime in 2016 in the Craftsman Truck Series. He is the only three-time winner of the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla.
Second-place Tyler Reddick started his career in Sprint cars and dirt Late Models. A Corning, Calif., native, he was the youngest winning driver in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. He led the second most laps Sunday night, setting the pace once for 75 laps.
Austin Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress, didn’t allow his grandsons to compete on pavement until they learned to race on dirt. Childress says racing on dirt teaches a driver car control. Dillon produced a third-place finish.
Fourth place went to Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who started racing karts at age 6 and then worked his way up through the Sprint Car ranks.
Chase Briscoe, who ran in the top 10 for most of Sunday night’s race before finishing fifth, also came from a Sprint Car background.
Justin Haley wrapped up the dirt track racer onslaught with his sixth-place finish. Haley began racing Quarter Midgets at age 9. Today, in addition to driving full-time for Kaulig Racing, he owns Dirt Late Model and Dirt Modified chassis manufacturer, Darkhorse Racecars.
Winning crew chief Adam Stevens said the track was advantageous to those drivers with a dirt racing background because they understood how the track would change.
“When this cushion got built up late in the third stage or pretty much the whole third stage, that groove started to come in, you had to be able to adapt to that line quickly,” Stevens said. “Every restart the preferred line was slightly different for a few laps. You had to be able to run that groove. It takes a special skill to match that entry speed with the amount of grip that you know you’re going to have in the center. If you overdo it, it can get away from you. If you underdo it, you’re going to get passed.
“The dirt drivers can do that while dodging the little spots where the track is coming apart, make those microscopic changes to the line, driving style, to keep the car under them and to keep them going forward.”