BRISTOL — Recent NASCAR Cup Series champions Chase Elliott and Joey Logano bring plenty of power to Saturday night’s Pinty Truck Race on Dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Another Cup champion, Martin Truex Jr., won the Pinty’s Truck race last year. He is not entered in this year’s 150-lap race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, drives the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet. William Byron, a Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Elliott in the Cup Series, drove the No. 7 Chevrolet to victory last Friday night at Martinsville Speedway.
Elliott spun in Friday’s opening practice session but recovered to post the eighth fastest time.
Logano, the 2018 NASCAR champion, won last season’s Food City Dirt Race for the Cup Series. Driving the No.54 David Gilliland Racing Ford, he was seventh fastest in opening practice. He and Elliott were both two-tenths off the pace of practice leader Stewart Friesen.
Logano paced second practice at 19.779 seconds at 91.006 mph.
Friesen’s fastest lap of the day was 19.369 seconds at 92.932 mph in the No. 52 Toyota. The Canadian driver has extra laps on the track than everyone else. He drove the Next Gen car for a Cup Series test on Bristol clay a week ago. Freisen also won two races for the SuperDIRT car series last April at BMS.
Truck Series defender Ben Rhodes, who finished second in the 2021 race in the No. 99 Toyota, was just 0.025 seconds off the pace with a lap of 19.394 seconds at 92.812 mph. The rest of the top five included Derek Kraus and Carson Hocevar in Chevrolets and Matt Crafton in Toyotas. Three-time Truck Series champion Crafton has extensive dirt experience, having driven a modified in the 2021 Bristol Dirt Nationals.
Other pre-race favorites include Zane Smith in the No. 38 Ford. Smith took two wins in the first five races of the season. These came on the superspeedway at Daytona and on the road course at the Circuit of the Americas. It’s hard to imagine any track more different than Bristol’s dirt track.
Smith finished seventh in Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt in 2021.
“I know the Bristol dirt last year at the very start was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a truck,” he said. “Then at the very end, I didn’t have so much fun, just because of the concept of seeing things. But they’re trying to fix those bugs and make it a good show for us. I feel like we’re all kind of in the same boat there and I love that.
Kyle Busch Motorsports fielded the truck that Truex rode to victory last year. This time around, USAC Midget Series Champion Buddy Kofoid drives the #51 Toyota. The defending champion is currently second in the USAC standings.
Another No. 4 KBM truck favorite is John Hunter Nemechek, the second-generation NASCAR star. He started from pole position in the truck race last year but finished 39th after being caught up in a crash. He prepared for Bristol by testing a Midget car at Millbridge Speedway, a 1/6 mile dirt track in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Chandler Smith, winner of the UNOH 200 last September on the concrete of Bristol, completes the KBM range in the Toyota n°18.
“Christopher Bell and I talked about it a lot,” he said. “He and Kyle Larson pushed me to do one at some point. Hopefully it prepared me better for the Bristol dirt race.
A wild card could be Mike Marlar, the star of the latest dirt model from Winfield, Tennessee. “The Winfield Warrior” led the 50 laps of a Super Late Model special feature Thursday night at Volunteer Speedway.
Austin Dillon, the 2018 Daytona 500 winner, and Cup Series rookie Harrison Burton are also entered in the race. Fan favorite Matt DiBenedtto will be in the #25 Chevrolet, while Parker Kligerman is in the #75 Chevrolet from the Abingdon-based Henderson Motorsports team.