Dirt racing makes its way into the NASCAR Cup Series for the first time in 50 years on Sunday as drivers hit the Bristol short track for the Food City Dirt Race. The dirt track will take most of the drivers out of their comfort zones and up on the wheel. Of course, not all of them will be uncomfortable on the layers of dirt covering the fabled short track. A select few have dominated the dirt racing scene for years and hope that experience transfers over to a full-blown stock car. Racing fans are in for a treat, and as always, Monkey Knife Fight gives you more of a reason to enjoy the ride.
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Here are some of my favorite plays for this week’s Monkey Knife Fight contests. Scoring in these contests is based on finishing positions inside the Top 20 with 20 points awarded to first place. An additional 0.1 points are tacked on for each lap led. Below are some picks to help you get started in your MKF contests.
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Kyle Larson more than 19.5 fantasy points
The most trendy name heading into the Food City Dirt Race in Bristol is Kyle Larson. It’s not surprising considering his recent dominating performance in Atlanta. Larson led an astounding 269 laps out of a possible 325 last week. While he didn’t walk away with the win, the statement was loud and clear; Kyle Larson in Hendrick equipment will be a force in 2021. Compounding his appeal is his run in the late model race on the same Bristol dirt last week. He came in second in his feature after winning a heat race earlier in the evening.
All that is enough to see this prop cash on its own, but he has even more in his toolbox. Larson is an accomplished dirt racer in his own right who has piled up victories in the Outlaw Series. Last season he took home so many checkered flags, series regulars were waiting for him to get another Cup ride so they could have a shot at a win again. We won’t know where he’ll start on Sunday since there will be qualifying runs for the first time this season. Even still, there are 25 lead lap points up for grabs. It’s a safe bet to count on Larson to earn enough of them to cushion even a Top-5 finish.
Austin Dillon more than 16.5 fantasy points
As much as Larson has been grabbing headlines this week, Austin Dillon is not someone who should stay in the shadows. Dillon led all 20 of the laps in his feature to grab a late model win on the Bristol dirt track. Not to mention, he was the first NASCAR driver since Richard Petty to win on a dirt track at all. Back in 2013, he took home the checkered from the Truck race in Eldora. It was the first dirt track race NASCAR had run at any level since 1970.
To hit this mark, Dillon will need a fourth place finish or better. He struggled in practice some on Friday, but don’t expect that to impact him too much on race day. He will reach back to his dirt track history for strength while whipping his stock car around the short track on Sunday.
Kyle Busch (+0.5) more fantasy points than Chase Elliot
This is a contest between two drivers, both with little dirt track experience. Between the two, though, Kyle Busch has the scales tipped slightly in his favor. That is because he has won a late model race on a dirt track, even if it was back in 2012. Chase Elliot has no meaningful dirt track experience. Given this race’s unprecedented nature, looking to past performance on this track is no indicator of what to expect this week.
So those 22 wins across the three major series Busch has to his credit at Bristol don’t count. What does count you ask? The lone head-to-head matchup on this track, in the dirt between the two. In that late model race last week, Busch finished in 11th place while Elliot crashed and failed to finish. If that happens again on Sunday at the Food City Dirt Race, this prop cashes.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+1.5) more fantasy points than Stewart Friesen
Road courses have ringers. Those are drivers that possess specialty skills on road tracks that teams bring in with hopes of a win or at least a solid finish. For the first time in quite some time, NASCAR will call upon dirt ringers to do the same. This matchup is between two such drivers. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. comes into Bristol with an impressive dirt racing portfolio. Most recently, he took the checkered flag at the Deep South Speedway in Loxley, Alabama. He’s not one of the sexier names in the field, but he’s got a real shot to win in Bristol on Sunday. With a position and a half spread over Friesen, this prop is too juicy to pass on.
Not to say that Friesen won’t be able to hold his own. He’s had an equally impressive background on dirt tracks and boasts a 2019 win in the Truck Series in Eldora. He’ll have somewhat of an edge going into Sunday’s race, having already run this week’s truck race. Even still, I don’t expect that to be enough to translate into a two-position finish better than Stenhouse at the Food City Dirt Race in Bristol.