Christopher Bell Wins at Bristol

Christopher Bell's victory locks him into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and moves him to the top of the regular season points standings.

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Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN — April 9, 2023

A beautiful day at Bristol Motor Speedway actually made it a more difficult task to prep the dirt track for tonight’s Food City Dirt Race. Saturday’s cool, damp weather offered up a perfect racing surface.

But, as race time approaches, the track crew is doing laps and packing the dirt into a similar condition that the Craftsman Trucks ran on.

This season marks the third time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on dirt at Bristol. The inaugural race at the Speedway’s imported dirt surface was the first time the Cup drivers had competed on dirt in over 50 years.

Not since the checkered flag flew on September 30, 1970, at North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, when NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won the race, had the NASCAR Cup Series competed on a dirt track.

Dirt History at Bristol

With more than 23,000 cubic yards of dirt hauled in to create the temporary dirt track surface at Bristol, it is a sight to be seen when the full field takes the green flag.

The inaugural Bristol Dirt event in 2021 saw five lead changes among five different leaders, but it was Team Penske’s Joey Logano who took the checkered flag over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by a scant 0.554-second.

Last season’s race was even more intense at the finish. Kyle Busch won the Food City Dirt Race from a distant third place after second-place Chase Briscoe slid up the high-banked dirt track into the leader Tyler Reddick in the final corner, turning both cars sideways. Busch led only the final lap en route to his first dirt win.

Looking Back at the NASCAR Cup Series on Dirt

The NASCAR Cup Series has had a long legacy of racing at dirt tracks prior to the Modern Era (1972-Present). From 1949 to 1970, the series competed in 501 races on dirt.

The very first NASCAR Cup Series points-paying sanctioned race in the inaugural season of 1949 was on dirt at Charlotte (Old) Speedway, a 0.75-mile track, and the event was won by Jim Roper.

Including this past season’s dirt race at Bristol, the 503 all-time dirt Cup races have produced 78 different winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty leads the series in dirt track wins with 46 victories. Followed by Buck Baker with 42 and Herb Thomas with 41.

Joey Logano (2021) and Kyle Busch (2022) are the only active drivers with a win on dirt in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Top 10 NASCAR Cup Series Winners On Dirt
Rank Cup Dirt Winners Wins
1 Lee Petty 43
2 Buck Baker 42
3 Herb Thomas 41
4 Tim Flock 36
5 Ned Jarrett 35
6 Richard Petty 31
7 David Pearson 23
8 Junior Johnson 23
9 Speedy Thompson 18
10 Fireball Roberts 15
Fonty Flock 15

 

Tonight’s Race

This week the competitors will be tasked with wrangling a Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track that has been measured to exactly 0.5 miles, and the event will be 125 miles (250 laps) in length. The race will be broken up into three stages with 75/75/100 laps.

The running order will be frozen at the conclusion of each stage. During the stage breaks, teams can change tires, add fuel, and make adjustments to their cars.

These non-competitive pit stops must be completed in a time designated by NASCAR. No fuel or tires except at stage breaks. Flat or damaged tires may be changed with approval by NASCAR.

(Note: Teams will not be required to pit during the stage breaks. Teams that elect not to pit will re-start ahead of teams that pitted. Re-start order determined by the freeze at the conclusion of the preceding stage)

Also in the Food City Dirt Race, Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch will be making his 650th NASCAR Cup Series career start. Busch will become the 27th different NASCAR Cup Series driver all-time to make 650 or more starts.

Only one driver all-time has won on their 650th career NASCAR Cup Series start, and it was NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty at Dover Motor Speedway on Sept. 15, 1974.

Stage One

Pole sitter Kyle Larson(7) pulled away clear at the start putting 10 car lengths on Austin Dillon(3), who started beside him. Dillon tracked the leader down by lap seven, and things looked like they might get busy up front.

On lap 10, Joey Logano(22) got caught up in some bumper tag and spun out in turn two. Logano hit the water barrels protecting the blunt end of the pit road wall on the backstretch. Bringing out the first caution flag of the evening.

Logano’s car suffered minimal damage. It hurt more that he will lose track position, restarting at the rear of the field.

On the second drop of the green flag, the same result. Larson pulled away, with Austin Dillon staying within five car lengths this time. Christopher Bell(20) ran third with Kyle Busch(5) tight on his bumper and Tyler Reddick(45) closing fast.

The yellow came out again as Logano took a tap in the left rear quarter from Todd Gilliland(38) on lap 37. This time, in turn four.

Larson is looking like Joey Logano in last night’s Craftsman Truck Race, untouchable on restarts. He stretched the interval in Austin Dillon as the number 3 car had to contend with a challenge from Busch.

Ryan Blaney(12) moved up to fourth, and Ryan Preece(41) in the Stewart Haas Racing Ford took over the fifth spot. On lap 57, Brad Keselowski(6) spun in turn four, unassisted, bringing out the third caution of the race.

Busch was the benefactor of this restart as he used the opportunity to edge ahead of Austin Dillon. If only for a few laps as Dillon re-established his position as the second-fastest car on the track.

The Stage ended under caution as Denny Hamlin(11) and Josh Berry(9) got together off of turn four.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 5 Kyle Larson 10
2 3 Austin Dillon 9
3 8 Kyle Busch 8
4 41 Ryan Preece* 7
5 12 Ryan Blaney* 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 14 Chase Briscoe* 4
8 45 Tyler Reddick 3
9 31 Justin Haley 2
10 24 William Byron 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Almost everyone chose to pit at the end of the Stage. The cars of Reddick, Bubba Wallace(23), Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Ty Dillon(77) opted to remain on the track and pick up important positions.

Stage Two

Multiple cautions every few laps slowed the progression of Stage Two. Kyle Larson learned that without a clear race in front of him, his car may be just average.

Reddick and Wallace were able to maintain their positions gained by staying out at the Stage break. Kyle Busch was the driver on the move as he improved his position with the multiple restarts until he was running in the third spot.

Joey Logano became the first driver out of the race when his engine blew up after 96 laps.

After Preece spun on the backstretch on lap 102 for the eighth caution, Reddick continued to lead. On the restart, Busch cozied up to Wallace and quickly made the pass. A few laps later, Bubba got into the wall and dropped back in the pack.

When Keselowski spun at the halfway point of the race, the top five had reorganized into Reddick, Busch, Austin Dillon, Larson, and Bell.

Four wide on the restart allowed Busch to drop into a position to attack Reddick. As they swapped the lead with slide jobs on three consecutive laps, Busch ultimately claimed the top spot.

The side-by-side racing brought Austin Dillon into the mix. Reddick and Dillon teamed up to get around Busch. Who then fell into the reach of Larson and Bell. Both drivers made the pass on the former leader.

They stayed in that order for the few remaining laps of Stage Two.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 45 Tyler Reddick 10
2 3 Austin Dillon 9
3 5 Kyle Larson 8
4 20 Christopher Bell 7
5 8 Kyle Busch 6
6 14 Chase Briscoe* 5
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 4
8 12 Ryan Blaney* 3
9 31 Justin Haley 2
10 10 Aric Almirola* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

With the success shown by the drivers who stayed out during the break after Stage One. Nine drivers choose to stay on track prior to the Final Stage.

Bell, Chase Briscoe(14), Aric Almirola(10), Gilliland, Harrison Burton(21), Hamlin, Berry, and Ross Chastain(1) were the drivers making that choice.

The Final Stage

Larson pitted during the Stage break, but did not take new tires. That may have been a misjudgement as he spun off turn four, just five laps into Stage Three.

The only driver making a move with fresh Goodyear rubber was Austin Dillon, moving into the sixth spot with 80 laps to go.

Larson and Preece banged doors out of turn four and all the way down the front stretch. The result? Larson spun and hit the turn one wall. Damage to the front suspension sent Larson to the infield and out of the race.

After the restart position shuffle was complete, Bell led. Berry, Austin Dillon, Gilliland and Kyle Busch made up the remainder of the top five.

With 53 laps to go, Reddick returned to the top five passing Busch. On lap 200, Noah Gragson(42) spun and the 14th caution of the night waved. The restart will bunch the field up and make it a sprint to the finish. Look for more yellow laundry to be hung out.

The Finish

The “choose rule” was in effect for tonights race. With no way to paint the “choose cone” on the track NASCAR chose to use a lighted drone to signifiy the point at which the driver had to select which lane they would restart in.

Reddick used the choice to take the second row on the inside and it led to him locking down the third position when the cars separated and settled in for the final race to the checkereed flag.

With 30 laps to go, Bell, Berry, and Reddick ran nose to tail. Bell stayed in the high line while Berry and Reddick tried diving low in the corners.

With 27 to go, Reddick put a slide job on Berry. Diving low into turn three, Reddick exited turn four putting Berry up into the lose dirt and taking over the second spot.

Berry could not recover, giving up third and fourth to Blaney and Austin Dillon.With 20 to go it was between Bell and and Reddick to settle things out.

Kyle Busch changed all that when he spun off turn four to bring out caution number 15 with just 16 laps to go. Busch’s good run went away wheh front suspension parts broke. He will not repeat as the winner of the Food City Dirt Race.

With choices made Bell start on the outside of row one with Blaney on the inside. Row two, Reddick on the outside and Berry on the inside. Will there be some retaliation for the earlier incident between the two.

The green flag waved with eight laps to go. Berry made contact, but it was with Blaney, sending the #12 car spinning. Blaney did a complete  360 and continued while the race stayed green.

Bell and Reddick moved away to settle the race between the two of them. When the white flag came out, Reddick drove deep into turn one and narrowed the distance between himself and the leader. Unlike last year, the only last lap drama was Chastain coming to rest in the middle of turns three and four after a crash to have the race finish under caution.

Playoff Standings

Christopher Bell became the seventh driver to lock in a playoff spot for the 2023 postseason. In addition, Bell moved atop the regular season points standings a single point ahead of Ross Chastain.

RANK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 192 In Win(2)
2 Christopher Bell (Points Leader) 269 In Win
3 Kyle Larson 224 In Win
4 Joey Logano* 223 In Win
5 Tyler Reddick 222 In Win
6 Kyle Busch 220 In Win
7 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 194 In Win
8 Ross Chastain 268 +85
9 Kevin Harvick* 255 +72
10 Martin Truex Jr. 228 +45
11 Brad Keselowski* 216 +33
12 Alex Bowman 211 +28
13 Denny Hamlin 203 +20
14 Ryan Blaney* 202 ,+19
15 Austin Cindric* 193 +10
16 Michael McDowell* 183 Tie Break
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Chris Buescher* 183 Tie Break
18 Ty Gibbs 173 -10
19 Daniel Suarez 170 -13
20 Corey LaJoie 162 -21
21 Chase Briscoe* 154 -29
22 Todd Gilliland* 146 -37
23 Bubba Wallace 143 -40
24 Austin Dillon 139 -44
25 AJ Allmendinger 134 -49

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Food City Dirt Race from Bristol Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 20 Christopher Bell 250
2 45 Tyler Reddick 0.469 250
3 3 Austin Dillon 2.503 250
4 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3.277 250
5 14 Chase Briscoe 4.711 250
6 31 Justin Haley 5.728 250
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 5.760 250
8 38 Todd Gilliland 7.283 250
9 4 Kevin Harvick 7.601 250
10 34 Michael McDowell 7.651 250
11 54 Ty Gibbs 7.793 250
12 23 Bubba Wallace 8.841 250
13 24 William Byron 9.329 250
14 43 Erik Jones 10.082 250
15 21 Harrison Burton 10.530 250
16 16 AJ Allmendinger 10.745 250
17 6 Brad Keselowski 11.462 250
18 17 Chris Buescher 14.197 250
19 2 Austin Cindric 16.362 250
20 15 JJ Yeley 17.025 250
21 77 Ty Dillon 18.551 250
22 11 Denny Hamlin 19.670 250
23 12 Ryan Blaney 21.111 250
24 41 Ryan Preece 22.567 250
25 99 Daniel Suarez 22.582 250
26 78 BJ McLeod 24.196 250
27 9 Josh Berry 28.895 250
28 1 Ross Chastain -1 249
29 48 Alex Bowman -2 248
30 7 Corey LaJoie -3 247
31 10 Aric Almirola -10 240
32 8 Kyle Busch -14 236
33 42 Noah Gragson -45 205
34 51 Matt Crafton -65 185
35 5 Kyle Larson -73 177
36 13 Jonathan Davenport -74 176
37 22 Joey Logano -154 96