Seven winners. Seven races.
Joey Logano became another 2021 first-time winner after finding speed in the latter portion of the inaugural Food City Dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For the first time in 50 years, the NASCAR Cup Series traded asphalt for dirt at Bristol Monday afternoon.
The first 40 laps went without big incidents, but Kyle Busch, who started fourth and ran the Bristol Dirt Nationals a few weeks ago, accumulated dirt on his grille and the No. 18 Toyota engine began overheating, forcing Busch to pit and go a lap down.
Kyle Larson, who dropped to the rear at the start for an engine change, worked his way to 11th before the first caution of the day came out for a massive wreck involving Aric Almirola, Anthony Alfredo, Shane Golobic and Corey LaJoie.
After winning the truck race earlier in the day, Martin Truex Jr. cruised out in the lead before the competition caution. He led 42 laps before the first break of the day.
Leading into the lap 50 competition caution, William Byron spun Ryan Newman off turn two, which caused Kevin Harvick to run his Stewart-Haas Racing rookie teammate Chase Briscoe into the outside wall. Quin Houff, Chris Windom and Cody Ware also got together during the incident.
A few laps following the scheduled competition caution, Christopher Bell, a renowned dirt competitor, spun in turn two after getting too high in the corner. He collected Larson and was hit by Ross Chastain.
Truex led 93 of the first 100 laps to win the opening stage. It was his first stage win of the season. Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez, in his first year with rookie team Trackhouse Racing, finished second in the stage.
On lap 135, Suarez moved Truex and the No. 19 car he used to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing to take the lead and hold it to the lap 150 competition caution.
Visibility became an issue the later the race got as the track dried out and kicked up a bunch of dust.
This led to a massive wreck on the frontstretch as Ryan Blaney spun and nobody could avoid him. Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon and Ware were among those in the incident.
Just a few laps after the following restart, Briscoe was hit by Brad Keselowski and turned into the inside wall.
Toward the end of the second stage, Joey Logano got around Suarez for the lead and went on to cruise to his second stage win of 2021.
Under the stage break, NASCAR paused the race for an extended amount of time to water the track and get moisture in the dirt to deal with the visibility problems. Bristol Motor Speedway also announced they will hold the dirt race again in 2022 with the Next Gen Car.
Outside of a late caution, Logano wasn’t threatened much for the lead and took the victory in the inaugural Bristol Dirt race. Denny Hamlin had a chance to make a run at home on the overtime restart, but chose to work the outside lane instead of trying the classic Bristol bump-and-run. It cost him as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed Hamlin and wound up finishing second. It was Stenhouse’s first top-five finish since Talladega in June 2020.
Hamlin has now finished inside the top five in six of the first seven races. He’s becoming a perennial bronze medalist as this is his third third-place finish of the year.
It wasn’t a win for Suarez, but Trackhouse and himself will take their first top-five finish in just their seventh race of existence. For Suarez, it was his first top-five finish since a third-place run at Texas Motor Speedway in Nov. 2019.
Newman rebounded from the early spin to round out the top five. It’s his first top-five run since a runner-up photo finish against Blaney at Talladega in Oct. 2019.
Byron, Tyler Reddick, Blaney, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10.
Both Bubba Wallace and Truex were on pace for top-10 runs, but Wallace cut a tire late after Stenhouse initiated contact with him and Truex cut a tire in overtime. Truex finished 19th, while Wallace came home 27th.
The Cup Series will take next weekend off for Easter and will return Apr. 10 for a Saturday night showdown at Martinsville Speedway.
Unofficial playoff standings: