Saturday Bristol Notebook

Ross Chastain was shocked at criticism from Christopher Bell

Ross Chastain is so accustomed to receiving blame for on-track incidents that he and his team joked about potential comments from Christopher Bell last Sunday at Richmond.

With Chastain on the bottom of a three-wide scenario and Bell in the middle after a restart on Lap 380, Bell moved up the track, tapped Byron’s left-rear quarter and spun the No. 24 Chevrolet.

Bell’s characterization of Chastain’s move to fill the bottom lane was anything but charitable.

“The wrecking ball came in and made us three-wide at the last second, and there wasn’t enough room to be three-wide,” Bell said.

To say that Chastain was shocked to be called a wrecking ball in that instance is the height of understatement, even though Chastain has been a convenient whipping boy whenever he’s near an accident on track.

“So what’s so crazy,” Chastain said, “we got out (of the car at Richmond), and one of my guys jokingly said, ‘What are they going to say about you? What’s the 20 (Bell) going to say about you?’ And we laughed, because we didn’t think anything.

“And then we hear about it a couple of minutes later, and we were like jaws on the ground. It caught us completely by surprise to get blamed for that.”

Bell initially also blamed Byron for crowding him, but after seeing video of the incident, he apologized—to Byron, not to Chastain. 


Kyle Larson thinks Cup cars on dirt may be tough for Jonathan Davenport

For the second time in four days, Kyle Larson will face off against dirt late model superstar Jonathan Davenport when the NASCAR Cup Series cars take to the track for Sunday’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Larson took the measure of the driver nicknamed “Superman” in Thursday night’s FloRacing Late Model Challenge, an event the 2021 Cup champion promoted at Volunteer Speedway in Bull’s Gap, Tenn.

“I was having fun the whole time,” Larson said. “I would imagine he was having fun, too. I was throwing haymakers at him though, so it probably did get stressful at times for him. I feel like I had a little bit better car than him and was doing a better job of running the top, so he probably felt a little pressure the whole time.”

Given the radical differences between the Cup cars and a dirt late model, Larson will be surprised if Davenport mounts a challenge in Sunday’s event at Bristol. “Superman,” who also will start 25th in Saturday’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race, will be driving the No. 13 Chevrolet fielded by Kaulig Racing in the Food City Dirt Race.

“I don’t remember the Kaulig cars being very good in the Cup race last year, and they haven’t been that strong yet anywhere this year,” Larson said. “And the Cup Series is just a lot tougher.

Larson also stressed the differences between the cars that raced Thursday and NASCAR’s Next Gen Cup car.

“They couldn’t be further apart from each other,” he said. “Everybody just assumes, ‘Oh, it’s a dirt track—dirt cars drive the same; you put a Cup car on dirt, and a dirt guy’s going to be good.’ But these cars are not dirt cars. They’re not built for it.

“Unless he’s driven a street stock, which I don’t know if he has, it’s probably not going to drive anything like what he’s used to.”

Davenport nevertheless performed capably in the fourth qualifying head race on Saturday, starting second and finishing fourth.  


Last year’s victory on Bristol Dirt kept Kyle Busch’s now-record streak alive

Kyle Busch’s last season with Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t live up to the driver’s expectations.

Busch won only one race, the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and that victory was a gift. The first- and second-place cars of Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe spun in front of him in the final corner, and Busch was able to beat Reddick to the finish line. 

As it turned out, that lone triumph extended Busch’s streak of winning at least one race per season to 18 straight years, tying him at the time with Richard Petty for the NASCAR Cup Series record.

Thanks to his victory at Auto Club Speedway in late February, Busch now has sole possession of the record.

Busch never thought a Cup win on dirt would be so integral to preserving his streak.

“No, no, definitely not,” he said. “It certainly shines a light of just how important every single race, every single week is. And for the nature of us going to all these different venues and having the diversity that we do in the race tracks that we go to is fun to a point.”

Busch also pointed out how perilous it is to drive a Cup car on dirt.

“These things here, you’re literally trying to not spin out when you’re going around there on the race track,” Busch said. “So how do you make a pass when you’re already past the limit of spinning out? It’s tough. It just makes for a tough race. 

“Makes it for a little better track position race. No different than anything else that we really do. But that dirt race last year was certainly significant to my years of winning races and capitalizing on that when we did. Lucky for us.”