Three NASCAR Cup Series regulars entered the Karl Kustoms Bristol Dirt Nationals for Super Late Model machines on Friday night at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Each of those three competitors made it to the 25-lap feature out of the field of 53 cars that attempted to qualify and heat race with mixed results among them at the end of the evening.
The most noteworthy NASCAR star with dirt racing experience is likely Kyle Larson. After competing almost exclusively on dirt last season following a suspension by NASCAR and a release from his ride with Chip Ganassi Racing, the Elk Grove, CA native went on a tear through the Sprint Car, Midget, and even Late Model ranks that saw him pile up more than 30 feature victories. Further, he already had scored a win in the season-opening race for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Florida’s All-Tech Raceway back in January of 2021.
Expectations were high for Larson as he came into the Bristol Motor Speedway driving a Longhorn Chassis prepared by one of dirt racing’s top engineers in the person of Kevin Rumley of K&L Racing Enterprises. And for the most part, the driver known as ‘Yung Money’ lived up to those expectations on the first night of Super Late Model competition on the high-banked track that has been covered with dirt.
Larson set the fastest time in Group B qualifying and overall. That assured him of a pole starting position in his heat race, which he then went on to win. As a result, the No. 6 machine would start the $10,000-to-win feature race from the outside of the front row.
Chris Ferguson jumped out to the early lead and never relinquished the top spot while Larson fought with three-time Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion Jonathan Davenport for the remaining podium finishing positions. Ultimately, the Hendrick Motorsports regular on the NASCAR circuit would sail under the checkered flag with a runner-up result.
Please consider also reading “Chris Ferguson scores wire-to-wire victory in Bristol Nats feature“
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott continued a run of non NASCAR competition that has seen him enter events such as the Snowball Derby for pavement-based Super Late Models, the Chili Bowl Nationals for dirt-based Midget Sprint Cars, and the 24 Hours of Daytona for IMSA-sanctioned sports cars since having secured his Cup Series title last November.
Elliott drove a Capital Race Cars machine provided by veteran Tennessee racer Stacy Boles in Friday’s Super Late Model portion of the Bristol Dirt Nationals. Unfortunately, the second generation star did not fare quite as well as his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Elliott proved to be the sixth fastest qualifier in Group A time-trials. From there, he went on to secure his place in the feature by finishing third in his heat race behind dirt racing superstars Davenport and Scott Bloomquist. However, things took a bit of a nasty turn in the feature race for the 25-year-old racer.
While vying for position inside the top-10, another car spun in front of the Dawsonville, GA driver, leaving the No. 9 car with no outlet. After contact with the spinning machine, Elliott was sent hard into the outside wall just off of turn four with significant damage being the end result.
Elliott did not appear to be injured in the crash and was credited with a 17th place finish.
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was teamed with Davenport in a Longhorn Chassis car owned by Arkansas businessman Lance Landers. With relatively little dirt racing experience, particularly in a Super Late Model, the Las Vegas native acquitted himself fairly well.
Busch was 9th fastest in Group B qualifying but was unable to lock into the feature through his heat race. However, the No. 51 car drove to an unchallenged victory in second B-main race which did earn him a mid-pack starting position in the main event.
Busch would eventually drive to a 13th place finish in the feature race.
Racing in the Bristol Dirt Nationals continues on Saturday night. NASCAR drivers Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie are entered in the 604 Crate Late Model division while 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano has a Modified ride in the event.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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