From Dirt To Daytona: Several Dirt Racing Ties At 2021 Daytona 500

From Dirt To Daytona: Several Dirt Racing Ties At 2021 Daytona 500

If you're watching the Daytona 500 today, here are the dirt racers to keep an eye out for.

Feb 13, 2021 by Tyler Burnett
From Dirt To Daytona: Several Dirt Racing Ties At 2021 Daytona 500

The Daytona 500 begins the NASCAR Cup Series season, a race that has been run annually since 1959 for some of stock car racing’s greatest talent...but over the years some of open wheel and dirt racing’s biggest stars have made the journey to the World's Most Famous Beach.

In 1967 Mario Andretti became the first person born outside of the United States to win the Daytona 500, driving the famed Holman Moody Ford. 

Just 5 years later in 1972, the then 3-time Indy 500 Champion AJ Foyt became the first driver to win both the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and the 24 hours of  Lemans. He took the famous Wood Brothers to victory lane. 

The 1990 USAC Midget and 1990 USAC Silver Crown champ Jeff Gordon has collected three Daytona 500 championships over his career, taking the checkers in 1997, 1999 and 2005. 

In 2008, South Bend, Indiana’s Ryan Newman, the 1999 USAC Silver Crown Series Champion took the checkers in Daytona driving for Roger Penske. He continues to drive today and will start 7th in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford on Sunday.

Just like those gentlemen before them, this Sunday’s field features a slew of open wheel dirt racers, including Newman, that are hungry to achieve victory at the World Center of Racing. 

Kyle Larson makes his return to NASCAR Cup Series Racing after one of the most historic season’s ever witnessed in the dirt open wheel ranks. Larson won back-to-back Lucas Oil Chili Bowls, and a total of 47 feature events through the 2020 season with wins in a winged sprint car, a dirt late model, midget and a silver crown car. 


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Larson has teamed up with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the 5 car and will start 13th in Sunday’s Daytona 500. The dirt world could also claim his teammate Chase Elliott who has now made two USAC National Midget starts in his career, both coming in Ocala at the Winter Dirt Games. Chase also competed in the 2021 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl. Larson will be making his 8th start in the Daytona 500 while Chase Elliott is making his 6th. 


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Three-time Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Champ and the 2013 USAC National Midget Champ Christopher Bell will be making his 2nd start in the Daytona 500. Bell compted full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2020 driving for the since shutdown Leavine Family Racing, he has now moved to Joe Gibbs Racing still in search of his first cup victory. 


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Chase Briscoe will make his first start in the Daytona 500. The Mitchell, Indiana native grew up cutting his teeth in a non wing sprint car at the Bloomington Speedway and the surrounding hoosier race tracks. Briscoe has taken over the famed 14 car at Stewart Haas Racing, previously driven by Clint Bowyer. Before Bowyer, Briscoe’s boss Tony Stewart won a championship in the car in 2011. 


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The 2007 USAC Sprint Car and Midget Rookie of the year Ricky Stenhouse Jr will make his 10th appearance in the Daytona 500, driving for JTG Daugherty racing. Among the active dirt open wheel drivers in NASCAR, Stenhouse probably has the most success at Superspeedways, winning once at Daytona in July in 2017 and the same season winning in the playoffs at Talladega. Stenhouse will start from the 21st position. 


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The 2008 USAC National Focus Midget Champion Alex Bowman will start on the pole of Sunday’s Daytona 500. Driving the car once driven by Jimmie Johnson, Bowman had engine troubles in his Duel race on Thursday. Bowman was the 2009 USAC National Midget rookie of the year and has made appearances at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl over the years, in 2021 he fielded cars for CJ Leary and Jake Swanson. 


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Other drivers that have dirt experience include Austin Dillon, who began racing on the dirt at Dale McDowell’s late model school, where he and his brother Ty began racing UMP modifieds and select late model races on the dirt. 

Tyler Reddick, who began his career in Outlaw Karts in California and began climbing the dirt ranks first in sprint car and then nationally with the dirt late models. 

Joey Logano has recently begun dirt racing, driving Ryan Flores UMP modified, Logano has impressed at Volusia already, on February 5th in the first modified feature driving from 19th to 3rd.