The NASCAR Cup Series returned to the dirt for the first time since 1970 on Monday. Yes, Monday, as Sunday was a total washout with Tennessee experiencing a flash flood. Bristol Motor Speedway parking lots saw the flooding first hand. When NASCAR finally got around to racing on Monday, we saw a lot of drivers have problems with the dirt for various reasons. Some were perhaps related to the rain that struck Bristol this weekend. In the end, Joey Logano became the seventh different driver to win a Cup Series race in 2021 as he triumphed in the Food City Dirt Race.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Joey Logano Wins Bristol Dirt Race
Food City Dirt Race Stage 1
Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag and soon after would lose the lead to his teammate, Kyle Busch. The dirt quickly caused a problem for Busch as he overheated on Lap 3. He was forced to pit from the lead falling off the lead lap entirely. Fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. became the third leader of the race. Aric Almirola’s day ended early after he spun around. The wreck involved took out several other drivers as well in Anthony Alfredo, Corey Lajoie and Shane Golobic.
Soon after the Almirola fiasco, William Byron hit Ryan Newman and set off a chain reaction. Kevin Harvick would door slam Stewart-Haas teammate Chase Briscoe into the wall in an effort to avoid the sliding Newman and a parking lot ensued even further back. Kyle Larson, who was set to start on the pole until he had to change his engine after practice runs, went from the back of the pack on the start to fifth at the competition caution.
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The cars came to pit road like normal on the competition caution but did not lose their spots during this non-competitive pit stop. When the race was restarted, one of the favorites in Christopher Bell got loose and took out the other favorite in Larson. Ross Chastain was also involved in the wreck, ending his day. Through all that mayhem and carnage, the No. 19 car of Truex Jr. came away with the Stage 1 win.
Food City Dirt Race Stage 2
Truex would bring the field back to the green on Lap 102. Daniel Suarez used the bumper before the second competition caution to wrestle the lead away from Truex. Not long after the Stage 2 restart, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch and Michael McDowell all joined together in a spin class on the front stretch to bring out another caution. Chase Briscoe had more trouble after Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch each made contact, causing the No. 14 Mustang to spin around.
For the first time that I can remember, NASCAR changed the restart rules in the second stage to make them single file for the remainder of the race. Cody Ware spun with about ten laps to go in Stage 2 to bring out another yellow. Joey Logano got a good launch to pass Suarez on the ensuing restart and steal the stage win.
Food City Dirt Race Final Stage
The Food City Dirt Race was different in that the final stage was not the longest stage. Because of the tire wear problem on the dirt surface, it was only 50 laps long while both Stages 1 and 2 were 100 laps each. The race stayed clean for the first 35 laps of the final stage. That ended when Bubba Wallace had a tire go down after contact from Rickey Stenhouse Jr. while fighting for the sixth position. There was no caution though, as Wallace made it safely to pit road.
The caution did eventually come out as former World of Outlaws champion Mike Marlar spun with just four laps to go. This sent the race into overtime. Logano got a clean start, and Hamlin went way too high trying to make something work in the two-lap shootout. Truex had a tire go down restarting from third as well. Add it all up and Logano cruised to the overtime win on the dirt.
Final Food City Dirt Race Thoughts
To be completely honest, I am still Team “Get the Dirt Off of Bristol Motor Speedway” after this race. There were many problems throughout the race like overheating cars, tires wearing too fast and the dust getting kicked up causing the drivers not to be able to see even the car in front of them. If NASCAR wants a dirt race , they need an actual dirt track where they can work out all of these kinks. Outside of all that, the race was entertaining, but it doesn’t make up for the problems.