NASCAR at Bristol dirt race takeaways: Kyle Busch scores win as leaders spin late

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

NASCAR’s Bristol race was filled with drama, delays and dirt. The spectacle on the Tennessee short track, now in its second straight year, didn’t quite go off without a hitch, but it delivered a show.

Steady rain caused two red flag delays, the first of which lasted nearly an hour after the second stage. That was followed by another 17-minute red flag. Tyler Reddick held his lead through multiple late-race restarts, from one red flag through the next, until contact with Chase Briscoe on the final lap sent them both reeling.

Kyle Busch sailed from third place to the finish line out front, earning his first victory of the season. It was Rowdy’s 60th win of his Cup Series career. He said that he “backed into” it.

“The final corner there, chaos ensued I guess,” Busch said. “And then we were able to make it through and steal a win, back into one. Feels good to get one here in this Next Gen racecar. It feels good to win on dirt. A lot of caveats.”

Reddick finished second. Joey Logano finished in third.

Driver Cole Custer (41) and driver Christopher Bell (20) lead the field to the start line during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, April 17, 2022, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Driver Cole Custer (41) and driver Christopher Bell (20) lead the field to the start line during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Sunday, April 17, 2022, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

A wild finish, ‘level-headed’ driver

Reddick led 99 laps of the stuttering 250-lap event, and everything looked like he was racing to the first victory of his Cup Series career. He was steadily fending off another dirt racer, Briscoe, trailing him.

As they drove to the flag, Briscoe dropped to Reddick’s inside, but the rear of Briscoe’s No. 14 Ford caught the side of Reddick’s No. 8 Chevrolet and the two went sliding sideways through the turn and spinning towards pit road. Briscoe approached Reddick after the race and the two had a calm exchange, smiling while conversing and leaving things with a handshake.

Reddick’s disappointment was evident, but he said he was “level-headed” about the situation, which seemed largely settled from his point of view.

“I know (Briscoe) from many years back,” Reddick said. “We’ve raced sprint cars together. We’ve raced other things together. We both like to race really hard. We both don’t like to clean somebody out just plainly like that. So, yeah, it was tough.”

Briscoe took the blame, saying that he didn’t intend to knock out Reddick.

“I was sick to my stomach as soon as I saw I took him with (me),” Briscoe said. “I felt like I was probably going to spin out as soon as I got in there. He drove it in so hard trying to protect the slider on me and that’s what he was supposed to do.”

“It was my fault on hitting him, so I hate it for him,” Briscoe continued.

There’s clearly a mutual respect between the two former Xfinity phenoms, and a respect from competitors for how the two raced on Sunday. Bubba Wallace stopped by Reddick’s car after the race and told him to keep his head up and “just keep plugging along,” according to Reddick.

Brad Keselowski commented on a clip on Twitter of Briscoe approaching Reddick after the race: “2 guys who have earned their way every step to get here and also happen to be great people. No surprises here.”

Busch said that he thought Briscoe’s No. 14 was the fastest car on track. Briscoe led 59 laps, the third-most, behind Daniel Suárez, who led the second-most laps with 64. Briscoe finished 22nd. Suárez finished 12th.

Busch back in Victory Lane

But it was Kyle Busch who scored the win by leading just the final lap. He was among the drivers critical of racing on dirt at Bristol prior to Sunday, but his latest victory on the half-mile oval puts him into the Cup playoffs another year.

He’s also now tied the all-time Cup Series record alongside NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richard Petty for consecutive seasons with a victory with 18. While Busch called the statistic “great,” he also acknowledged the early struggles his Joe Gibbs Racing team has undergone this season. Prior to Sunday, his No. 18 Toyota team finished in the top five just once, at Las Vegas in fourth.

“We got a lot of work to do to win more races and be in contention each and every week,” Busch said. “I say all this because, yes, the 18 is important, but I feel like I’m in the prime of my career and I would love to be running up front and dominating and winning races and contending for championships. That’s our ultimate goal.”

A Bristol dirt return?

Prior to Sunday’s race, some drivers seemed to begrudgingly praise the Bristol dirt event. Some flat-out insulted it.

Kevin Harvick was among those who made an early exit and was frustrated by officiating in the first stage as mud kicked up. Harvick lost the lucky dog position to two other cars that pitted prior to NASCAR calling all cars to pit road to clean their grilles and windshields. There were multiple expletives uttered on the team radio.

Harvick was later collected in an accident and his car suffered too much damage to continue, forcing him to join Denny Hamlin on the sidelines after Hamlin suffered a motor issue.

“I think Bristol is a great racetrack, but it must not have been what everybody liked,” Harvick told reporters about the dirt race. “I think it’s ridiculous that we’re doing what we’re doing anyway.”

Drivers had mixed reviews of the event after a chaotic, albeit entertaining, final stage. Busch seemed to change his tune slightly from earlier comments, saying that the track was better-prepared this year, but that the “application” of the race needed improvement.

“The cars are 3,500 pounds,” Busch said. “You saw what it’s like on the last corner. The last lap, to drive around here every single lap, you are on edge, on your toes, just trying not to crash every single lap.”

“I’ve now run micros, dirt late models, a few different types of vehicles on dirt,” Busch continued. “When there’s grip, it’s grip and rip. You are driving the heck out of that thing. Makes you breathe hard. This thing here, you’re just not breathing because you’re so tensed up of not crashing.”

Ticket sales and TV numbers will ultimately determine a Bristol dirt return, as multiple drivers noted, and whether it continues as an Easter night race, a move seen as somewhat controversial since it ran contrary to NASCAR typically not racing on the holiday.

“If it’s a good show, it’s a good show,” Busch said. “I think Bristol is fine with or without (dirt). I’ve won on them all, so I think I have the best say.”

He waited for a laugh.

“No bites?” he said. “Must be late.”

Chase Elliott leads the Cup Series in points, sitting three ahead of Ryan Blaney. Both drivers are seeking a win this season. NASCAR’s next Cup race is Sunday at Talladega. It’ll be a totally different race from one to the next, but the drama is likely to be a constant.

Bristol dirt results

Order

Car No.

Driver

Time behind leader

1

18

Kyle Busch

--

2

8

Tyler Reddick

0.33 (seconds)

3

22

Joey Logano

4.004

4

5

Kyle Larson

4.186

5

12

Ryan Blaney

4.849

6

48

Alex Bowman

6.434

7

20

Christopher Bell

6.556

8

9

Chase Elliott

6.786

9

34

Michael McDowell

7.852

10

42

Ty Dillon

8.311

11

6

Brad Keselowski

8.49

12

99

Daniel Suárez

8.519

13

41

Cole Custer

10.198

14

31

Justin Haley

10.607

15

17

Chris Buescher

10.78

16

2

Austin Cindric

11.43

17

38

Todd Gilliland

11.567

18

24

William Byron

11.573

19

7

Corey LaJoie

12.476

20

21

Harrison Burton

13.536

21

19

Martin Truex Jr.

13.794

22

14

Chase Briscoe

13.993

23

10

Aric Almirola

14.999

24

43

Erik Jones

15.078

25

78

Josh Williams

15.351

26

51

Cody Ware

18.797

27

16

Noah Gragson

-2

28

23

Bubba Wallace

-5

29

47

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

-10

30

15

JJ Yeley

-29

31

3

Austin Dillon

-39

32

45

Kurt Busch

-39

33

1

Ross Chastain

-100

34

4

Kevin Harvick

-150

35

11

Denny Hamlin

-159

36

77

Justin Allgaier

-176