Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Survives Bristol Dirt For First Win of the Season

Turns out the third time’s the charm for a “dirt track ace” earning a victory on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell took the win on Easter Sunday (April 9), leading 100 of 250 laps on his way to winning the 2023 Food City Dirt Race. The Oklahoma native first made a name for himself running dirt throughout the midwest and still moonlights as much as possible aside from running the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“Man, let me tell you those were some of the longest laps of my entire life,” a smiling Bell told FOX Sports. “This place is so much fun whether it’s on dirt or concrete, and when the cushion got up there on the top it was very tough, you couldn’t drive it hard or you’d be sucked in… it was a lot of fun.”

Bell survived in a race defined by attrition as numerous top-tier Bristol contenders, including Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano failed to finish. The race featured 14 cautions for 71 laps, over a quarter of the race distance along with a number of additional single-car spins where racing continued under green.

The final laps saw Bell and Tyler Reddick play a cat-and-mouse game out front; Bell would get the jump on a restart only for Reddick to reel him back in. Unfortunately, a wreck on the final lap involving Daniel Suarez, Josh Berry and Ross Chastain caused the race to end under yellow before Reddick had a chance to make his final push.

The win marks Bell’s fifth of his Cup career; he is now responsible for the last four Cup victories at JGR. After coming up short, Reddick settled for second for the second straight year at Bristol Dirt while Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top-five finishers.

For the third straight year, the temporary Bristol dirt surface offered its fair share of challenges, developing the equivalent of a dirt pothole over the course of the race in turn 3. But most drivers applauded how competitive the track turned out, giving them multiple grooves to run with as the night wore on. Only four lead changes out front masked three and four-wide racing behind the leader as drivers found a variety of ways to pass outside of restarts.

“That was cool,” Dillon said after finishing third. “That was one of the coolest races I’ve ever been in.”

“It was a lot of fun, honestly,” Reddick added. “Really intense, I felt like I had a little bit more. I thought I had the edge, but I wasn’t quite there in the last couple of laps [to catch Bell].”

Larson ended up leading the entire first stage of the race before Reddick took over in stage two, staying out on old tires for track position. That caused Bell and 10 other drivers to pull the same gamble entering the final stage, putting the No. 20 car in position to grab a lead he would not relinquish.

Larson, meanwhile, drew the ire of Ryan Preece during the middle stages of the race after making contact with Preece’s No. 41 Ford Mustang.

Later on, after a Larson spin, Preece caught up with the No. 5 Chevrolet and made contact on the backstretch, sending Larson around and breaking his suspension.

It’s a move the 2021 Cup Series champion felt was a step over the line.

“I’m guessing he was paying me back for whatever I did earlier and ran me straight in the fence,” Larson said of Preece. “My car was broke and ended up crashed. It just sucks.”

Preece wound up continuing on and finishing the race in 24th position. His explanation for the incident was far more simple, simply telling members of the media following the race “I got loose” before walking away from his No. 41 Ford.

2023 Food City Dirt Race Results

The NASCAR Cup Series will finish off their three-race short track swing next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. The NOCO 400 will take the green flag on Sunday, April 16 at 3 ET with television coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Screenshot 2024 02 13 12.27.21 Am

Garrett joined Frontstretch as a news writer in 2023, and became a fantasy racing and betting writer in 2024. Hailing from the heart of coal country in southern West Virginia,  he's a married father of three and currently enrolled in the Physical Therapy Assistant Program at New River Community Technical College in Beaver, WV.

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Christopher

1. Preece ‘got loose’ by deliberately turning right. Right into Larson.
2. NASCAR should use the choose drone at every race; much better visibility for drivers, especially those deeper in the pack. Better visuals for TV as well.
3. After 3 years of this, the novelty is gone (at least for me). Wish they’d just go back to the real Bristol.

Kurt Smith

100% agree. If you’re going to race on dirt, do it at Eldora or another track that’s built for dirt racing. I initially liked the idea that drivers would have to prove themselves in another discipline, but after seeing even the best drivers constantly spinning and meeting the wall last night, I’m yearning for Bristol to be just concrete again.

Apparently the fans agree given the amount of empty seats.

Kurt Smith

Ryan Preece last night put on full display why he will never be a winner and will lose his ride again before two years.

He spent a few dozen laps last night running in the top ten for the first time in his remarkably undistinguished career. Then he gets a clinic in how to race like champions do, and he whines like a little b*** and wrecks a champion for racing him hard.

Stunning to see the Bristol grandstands more than 2/3 empty for a Cup race. I know NASCAR only cares about television nowadays, but for a track that went 55 straight races with the grandstands completely full, seeing all of those empty seats is a really bad look. Doesn’t exactly speak to the health of the sport.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kurt Smith
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