In an unexpected turn of events, Kyle Busch benefitted from a final lap incident involving leaders Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe to storm to his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season in the second annual, rain-delayed Food City Dirt Race at the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course on Sunday, April 17.
The two-time Cup champion from Las Vegas, Nevada, came into Sunday night’s feature on Bristol’s dirt course with five results in the top 10 through the first eight scheduled events. When the final lap of the main event occurred, Busch appeared to have a solid third-place result sealed. Then as Reddick and Briscoe tangled while battling for the win on the final lap, Busch managed to erase his deficit and cycle to the lead ahead of Reddick to capture another win at Thunder Valley and achieve career win No. 60 in NASCAR’s premier series.
The starting lineup was determined through four 15-lap heat events on Saturday, where the competitors accumulate points for their finishing results and for passes that improved their original starting spots.
Despite finishing in the runner-up spot behind Tyler Reddick during the first heat event, Cole Custer earned his first Cup career pole position for the main event after accumulating 16 points, nine for finishing in second place and seven for improving from his ninth-place starting spot. Joining him on the front row was Christopher Bell, who won the second heat event and racked up 14 points, 10 for winning the heat event and four for improving from his fifth-place starting spot.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Custer shot out with a brief early advantage until teammate Chase Briscoe, who qualified in fourth place, challenged and assumed the top spot when the field returned to the start/finish line. As Briscoe led the first lap, Christopher Bell moved his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry into the runner-up spot while Custer fell back to third. Behind, Tyler Reddick and Justin Haley battled for fourth place in front of a hard-charging Kyle Larson in his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Through the first five scheduled laps, Briscoe retained a narrow advantage ahead of Bell while Custer, Reddick and Larson were in the top five. Ty Dillon, who won the fourth and final heat event, was up in sixth place followed by Haley, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
By Lap 12, Custer pitted due to an overheating issue while teammate Kevin Harvick was lapped by the field. Just as Aric Almirola was making a pit stop to have the front grille of his No. 10 Cummins/Rush Truck Center Ford Mustang clean during the following lap, the first caution of the event flew due to mud on the track.
Under the first caution, the entire field made a mandatory pit stop to have their grilles and windshields clean from the mud and the dirt, with Briscoe retaining the lead ahead of Bell, Reddick, Larson and Haley. By then, teammates Harvick and Custer were pinned a lap behind the leaders despite taking the wave around.
When the race restarted on Lap 25, Briscoe rocketed away from Bell to retain the lead as Larson also muscled his way into the runner-up spot. At the same time, Ty Dillon battled against Bell for third place while Kyle Busch moved into the top five ahead of Reddick and Austin Dillon.
By Lap 35, Briscoe was leading by more than half a second over Larson followed by Ty Dillon, Bell, Kyle Busch, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Kurt Busch, Bowman and Haley.
Just then, trouble struck for the leader Briscoe on Lap 49, who got up on the high banking in Turn 3 and fell off the pace entering Turn 4 while Larson stormed to the lead. Two turns later, Briscoe spun in Turn 2 after cutting a right-rear tire on his No. 14 HighPoint.com Ford Mustang.
On Lap 55, the race restarted under green as Larson retained the lead. Behind, Ty Dillon and Bell battled for second while Austin Dillon and Bowman were up in the top five ahead of Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry.
With reports of light rain lingering close to the track under the final 10 laps of the first stage, Larson extended his advantage to eight-tenths of a second ahead of Ty Dillon while Bell, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch while Bowman, who nearly spun, slipped back to sixth ahead of Joey Logano, Reddick, Blaney and Chris Buescher.
When the first stage concluded under caution on Lap 75 due to Justin Allgaier wrecking in Turn 3, Larson captured his first stage victory of the season. Ty Dillon settled in second followed by Bell, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Bowman, Logano, Reddick, Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Under the stage break, some like Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain and Briscoe remained on the track while the rest of the field led by Larson peeled off the track to pit road for service. By then, Harvick received the free pass to cycle back on the lead lap while Custer was still pinned a lap behind.
The second stage started on Lap 75 as teammates Suarez and Chastain occupied the front row. At the start, Suarez rocketed with the lead ahead of Larson, who overtook Chastain for the runner-up spot while Briscoe and Bell battled in the top five. Behind, Kyle Busch was in sixth ahead of Ty and Austin Dillon.
On Lap 91, the caution flew when Alex Bowman got loose and spun his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 off the front nose of Chris Buescher in Turn 4. Under the caution period, Hamlin took his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry to the garage due to a blown engine as he suffered his fourth DNF of the season.
Six laps later, the race proceeded under green as Suarez retained the lead ahead of Larson and the field. Not long after, however, the caution returned for a multi-car pileup on the backstretch that involved Corey LaJoie, Noah Gragson, Bowman and Harvick, who retired his No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang in the garage.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 105, teammates Suarez and Chastain dueled for the lead with the former retaining the top spot while Kyle Busch tried to split both Trackhouse Racing teammates.
By Lap 110, Trackhouse teammates Suarez and Chastain battled for the lead while Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Bell dueled for third place. Briscoe, meanwhile, was in fifth ahead of the field.
Three laps later, the caution returned when Brad Keselowski made contact against Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through Turns 1 and 2, which got Keselowski sideways as he spun while barely clipping former teammate Ryan Blaney.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 119, Suarez retained the lead while Bell muscled his way into the runner-up spot as he started to put pressure on Suarez for the lead.
At the halfway mark on Lap 125, Suarez was leading ahead of Bell, Larson, Briscoe and Kyle Busch while Chastain, Chase Elliott, Logano, Ty Dillon and Blaney were in the top 10. Then during the following lap, the caution flew due to debris reported on the backstretch.
By Lap 131, the race restarted under green as Suarez retained the lead while Briscoe issued a challenge for the lead. The caution, however, flew due to an incident on the backstretch that involved LaJoie, Harrison Burton and Bubba Wallace,
On Lap 139, the race restarted under green. At the start, Suarez was locked in a three-wide battle with Bell and Briscoe before Briscoe assumed the top spot. In the process, Bell moved up to second while Suarez fell back to third place ahead of Chase Elliott.
By Lap 145, Briscoe was leading by more than four-tenths of a second over Bell while Suarez, Elliott and Logano were in the top five.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 150, Briscoe captured his first stage victory of the season. Bell settled in second followed by Suarez, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Larson, Logano, Michael McDowell, Blaney and Reddick.
Under the stage break, names like Kyle Busch, Logano, Blaney, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Haley, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Buescher, rookie Harrison Burton, Bowman, JJ Yeley, Aric Almirola, rookie Austin Cindric and Cody Ware remained on the track while the rest led by Briscoe pitted.
Following the pit stop procedures, the race was red-flagged due to precipitation. At the moment of the event’s hiatus, Briscoe was scored the leader. When the red flag was lifted following an extensive delay and the race proceeded under caution, Kyle Busch cycled to the lead. As the competitors made their way back on the track, Ross Chastain, who noted that his engine expired during the red flag period, retired.
With 100 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green. At the start, Kyle Busch was leading until Tyler Reddick made his way to the front.
Eleven laps later, the caution flew due to a multi-car stack-up and wreck in Turn 3 that involved Cody Ware, Elliott, Suarez, Martin Truex Jr. and Stenhouse.
With 83 laps remaining, the race proceeded under green as Reddick retained the lead ahead of Logano, Blaney, Austin Dillon and the field. It took only one lap, however, for the caution to return when Erik Jones made contact with Stenhouse entering Turn 2 before spinning his No. 43 Tide Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 across the outside wall.
Down to the final 75 laps, the race proceeded under green as Reddick retained the lead ahead of Logano, Austin Dillon and the field. The caution, however, returned three laps later when rookie Todd Gilliland got loose and spun in Turn 2.
Another five laps later, the race restarted under green and it was Reddick who fended off the pack and retained the lead.
With 43 laps remaining, the caution returned when Stenhouse spun for the second time in the event. It then took only three laps for the event to restart under green.
Then with 39 laps remaining, trouble ignited for Austin Dillon when he fell off the pace in Turn 4 and caused the field to scramble to avoid hitting him. In the midst of the scramble, JJ Yeley barely made contact with Dillon while Kurt Busch, who veered dead right to avoid hitting Dillon, ended up turning himself into the outside wall as he also collected Almirola.
During the caution period, the race was red-flagged for a second time due to another round of precipitation.
When the red flag lifted and the race restarted with 24 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Reddick retained the lead ahead of Kyle Busch, Logano, Briscoe, Blaney, Bell and the field.
Under the final 20 laps, Briscoe and Kyle Busch engaged in a fierce battle for the runner-up spot while Reddick continued to lead.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Reddick, who continued to lead, had Briscoe starting to erase his deficit as he was half a second behind.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Reddick was ahead by less than two-tenths of a second over Briscoe, who was right behind the rear bumper of Reddick’s No. 8 3Chi Chevrolet. Through Turns 1 and 2, Reddick retained the lead. Then in Turn 3, Briscoe made a final lap dive beneath Reddick’s car in a bid for the lead, but slipped sideways in the dirt and clipped Reddick in the process as both spun from the top to the bottom lane in Turn 3.
Following a full 360 spin, Reddick tried to limp to the finish line with the lead while Briscoe came to a rest backward below the apron. Just as Reddick had victory within his grasp, Kyle Busch, who was trailing the two leaders by less than four seconds at the start of the final lap, managed to edge Reddick at the finish line to win by 0.330 seconds.
With his first victory of the season and by becoming the eighth different winner through the first nine events of the 2022 season, Kyle Busch notched his 60th NASCAR Cup Series career win in his 615th series start, which kept him in ninth place on the all-time Cup wins list. In addition, Busch tied seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty’s record of achieving at least one Cup victory in 18 consecutive seasons. He also achieved his ninth Cup victory at Bristol Motor Speedway, but first on dirt.
“We got one,” Busch, who only the final lap of 250, said on FOX. “It doesn’t matter how you get them. It’s all about getting them. Man, I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now. This is awesome. I didn’t even do anything. Just a testament to our team, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, M&M’s…[The car] being fast. Fast enough to stay in contention. Fast enough to see those guys. I don’t know why we just couldn’t fire off after the rain. Every time it rained, both times, it just would not fire. It took it about 20 laps to get going. Overall, just real pumped to be back. Real pumped to get a win. This one means a lot. I could win on any surface here at Bristol. Bring it on, baby!”
Reddick, who led a race-high 99 laps and was a few feet away from achieving his first Cup career win, settled in a disappointing second place for the fourth time in his career while Briscoe, who led 59 laps and rallied from his early spin to contend for his second Cup triumph, tumbled down the leaderboard to 22nd. Following the event, both competitors managed to share their perspectives on the incident and shake hands in the process.
“I don’t think I did everything right, to be honest with you,” Reddick said. “Briscoe was able to run me back down there. Just looking at it, I should have done a little bit better job of just…I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let him get that close. He ran me back down. Worked really hard to do that. I mean, you’re racing on dirt; going for the move on the final corner. It’s everything that as a driver you hope to battle for in his situation. Made it really exciting for the fans. It does suck, but we were able to finish second still. I’m being honest. I should have done a better job and pulled away so he wasn’t in range to try to make that move. That’s how I look at it.”
Logano, the reigning Bristol Dirt Course winner, came home in third place as Larson and Blaney finished in the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Bowman, Bell, Elliott, McDowell and Ty Dillon.
There were six lead changes among five different drivers. The race featured 14 cautions for 82 laps.
With his eighth-place finish, Chase Elliott continues to lead the regular-season standings by three points over Ryan Blaney, 21 over Joey Logano, 29 over William Byron and 51 over both Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch.
1. Kyle Busch, one lap led
2. Tyler Reddick, 99 laps led
3. Joey Logano
4. Kyle Larson, 27 laps led, Stage 1 winner
5. Ryan Blaney
6. Alex Bowman
7. Christopher Bell
8. Chase Elliott
9. Michael McDowell
10. Ty Dillon
11. Brad Keselowski
12. Daniel Suarez, 64 laps led
13. Cole Custer
14. Justin Haley
15. Chris Buescher
16. Austin Cindric
17. Todd Gilliland
18. William Byron
19. Corey LaJoie
20. Harrison Burton
21. Martin Truex Jr.
22. Chase Briscoe, 59 laps led, Stage 2 winner
23. Aric Almirola
24. Erik Jones
25. Josh Williams
26. Cody Ware
27. Noah Gragson, two laps down
28. Bubba Wallace, five laps down
29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 10 laps down
30. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident
31. Austin Dillon – OUT, Accident
32. Kurt Busch – OUT, Accident
33. Ross Chastain – OUT, Engine
34. Kevin Harvick – OUT, Accident
35. Denny Hamlin – OUT, Engine
36. Justin Allgaier – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Talladega Superspeedway, the first of two visits to the 2.66-mile superspeedway venue in Lincoln, Alabama, for the series, which is scheduled to occur on Sunday, April 24. The coverage for the event is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.