(Photo Credit: Twitter.com/NASCAR)
By Adam Carabine
It was another wild race at Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt experiment. Kyle Busch ‘backed’ his way into his 60th career Cup Series win, and his 9th at Bristol.
The race had a bit of a rough start, as the track was muddy after some light showers earlier in the day. Many front grilles had mud and dirt caked on the front, leading to overheating. NASCAR threw the caution and forced mandatory pit stops to clear off the dirt.
Later in the stage, Chase Briscoe got a flat right rear tire from the lead and caused a caution after he spun out and tagged the wall – damage was minimal, and he was able to return.
Kyle Larson won Stage 1, his first stage win of the year, just as the caution flag came out for a spin farther back in the field.
For the dirt race, pit stops were non-competitive, meaning no spots could be gained or lost on pit road. NASCAR set a 6-minute timer and allowed teams to work on their cars, at which point they would reconvene on the track in the order they entered. However, some teams opted not to pit at the end of the stage and were able to improve their track position.
After not pitting, Daniel Suarez led the start of Stage 2, which was marred with multiple incidents causing cautions. Veteran drivers Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick wound up with DNFs.
At a certain point, it appeared drivers might be racing just for the halfway point of the race, as there were constant threats of rain. After Chase Briscoe won Stage 2, the race was red flagged due to heavy rain. All the cars were brought down pit road, the drivers exited their vehicles, cars were covered with tarps, etc. However, the rain let up, and the red flag lasted just under an hour.
Though Tyler Reddick wasn’t the control car to start the final stage, he quickly took the lead and stayed there up until the final lap of the race. Again, more imminent rain led to some extra urgency with the drivers up front.
With just under 30 laps remaining in the race, another intense rain shower brought out the red flag. Drivers brought their cars back down pit road for a short break. Luckily, again, the rain was short-lived, and they were able to resume racing, returning to green with 24 laps to go.
With 15 laps left, Reddick’s lead over Briscoe was slowly but surely shrinking. On the final lap, Briscoe was side by side with Reddick, got loose and slid up, causing both of them to spin. This allowed 3rd placed Kyle Busch to sneak by for the win. Reddick was able to recover quickly, but not quick enough as he finished in 2nd (Briscoe wound up 22nd).
Joey Logano, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney rounded out the Top 5. Ty Dillon earned his first top-10 of the season, Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon both crashed out in the final stage, and Michael McDowell earned himself a 9th place finish.
The Cup Series heads to Talladega next weekend.
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