Race Weekend Central

Stat Sheet: The Ending of Bristol Dirt Was Nearly a Case of Deja Vu

Christopher Bell wound up victorious in the third annual Food City Dirt Race, but the win was no easy task with Tyler Reddick right on his back bumper in the closing laps.

Until the final caution came out for a crash between Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain and Josh Berry, the finish between Reddick and Bell was looking to be an exact repeat of last year’s battle for the win.

Everyone knows the story: Reddick held a lead over Chase Briscoe in the closing laps and was seeking his first NASCAR Cup Series win. Briscoe got close enough out of turn 2 on the final lap to send his car deep into turn 3, and the overly aggressive move ended with both drivers spinning out. Reddick kept going, but he was beaten to the finish line by Kyle Busch in what proved to be his final win with Joe Gibbs Racing.

The same story played out to the ending of 2023, except this time, Reddick was on offense with fresher tires in second place instead of trying to defend the lead. It’s a fact that was not lost on him after the race was over.

But that’s not where the similarities ended, as Reddick in 2022 and Bell in 2023 both took the lead for the first time after electing not to pit at the conclusion of the second stage. All that separated both drivers from victory was 100 laps of holding off the field with older tires.

Reddick nearly accomplished it last year. He finished the race with 99 laps led, all of which came in the final stage. The only lap of the final stage that he didn’t lead, however, was the last one.

Bell was able to seal the deal by wiring the final 100 laps. Bell had built up a gap on the final restart, but Reddick was beginning to close with every set of turns while Bell’s car struggled with handling as the laps wound down.

With Reddick right on the No. 20 car’s bumper on the final lap, Bell was saved by the bell (no pun intended) as a caution came out with only two turns to go.

If the race finished under green, would Reddick have gotten by? Would Bell be able to hold on? Would the two drivers spin out in an exact repeat of last year? We’ll never know, but until the final lap, the 2023 finish at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track was about to provide us with the same ending as 2022.

Bristol Dirt by the Numbers

1: The number of Cup races where Bell has led the most laps.

  • As surprising as it sounds, there was not a single Cup race where Bell led the most laps until Sunday (April 9).
  • Bell led over 140 laps at both (pavement) Bristol and Martinsville Speedway last year, but both races featured another driver (Chris Buescher and Denny Hamlin, respectively) leading more.
  • That has not stopped Bell from scoring five wins in his first 116 Cup starts, which is the second-most among full-time drivers behind Brad Keselowski, who scored eight wins in his first 116 races.

4: Austin Dillon’s average running position (ARP) at Bristol Dirt on Sunday.

  • An ARP of 4 is a career best for Dillon in 344 Cup starts.
  • Previously, Dillon’s best Cup ARP was 6 on two occasions: Richmond Raceway in September 2020 and the 2021 Daytona 500.
  • Dillon recorded a driver rating of 121.2, which is also a career best in Cup.

4: The number of last-place finishes that Joey Logano has in his Cup career.

  • In his first 509 Cup starts, Logano finished last twice (the 2009 Daytona 500 and 2018 Watkins Glen International).
  • Logano now has two last-place finishes in his last six races (Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and now Bristol Dirt).

0: The number of top-five starts that Rick Ware Racing had in 532 Cup entries prior to this weekend.

  • Prior to JJ Yeley’s third-place start last weekend, RWR’s best Cup start was at Road America in 2021 with Joey Hand (ninth). However, that car had technical assistance from Ford and Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • If you take out all the races where qualifying was rained out or a car had technical assistance, RWR’s second-best Cup start is … a 24th-place start by Matt Crafton last weekend.

The last time that Yeley started third or better in a Cup race was at Michigan Speedway in June 2007, where he won the pole.

  • By finishing 20th in the race, Yeley scored his first top-20 finish in Cup competition since July 2019, when he finished 12th at Daytona International Speedway.

Crafton has made three Cup starts in a substitute role, all of which happened once every four years.

  • Crafton’s three Cup starts are the 2015 Daytona 500 (subbing for Kyle Busch), October 2019 at Martinsville (subbing for Matt Tifft at Front Row Motorsports) and now April 2023 at Bristol Dirt.
  • Unless Crafton is named the replacement driver in light of Cody Ware‘s indefinite suspension from NASCAR, we look forward to his fourth Cup start in 2027.
See also
Cody Ware Arrested in North Carolina, Indefinitely Suspended by NASCAR

Saturday Synopsis

Logano, Ty Majeski and William Byron finished 1-2-3 in stage one, stage two and the race in Saturday’s (April 8) NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Bristol Dirt.

  • It’s the first time since the implementation of stage racing in 2017 that the same drivers swept the top three positions in every stage.
  • Despite leading only one lap, Majeski had an ARP of 2 in Saturday’s race.
  • Logano led 138 of the 150 (92%) of the laps on Saturday (April 8). It’s the first Truck race to feature one driver leading more than 90% of the race since … Nick Sanchez a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite nine wins and a Truck championship, Saturday’s race was just Zane Smith’s second career Truck pole. His first? The Phoenix Raceway finale that netted him the 2022 title.

See also
Entry List: 2023 NOCO 400

Up Next: Martinsville Speedway

Nine drivers enter this Sunday’s (April 16) race with a grandfather clock: Bell, Alex Bowman, Busch, Byron, Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Keselowski, Logano and Martin Truex Jr.

Hendrick Motorsports dominated and won the 400-lap race at Martinsville last April while Joe Gibbs Racing led over half the laps and won at Martinsville last October. Which team will have the upper hand this time around?

  • It’s the first race at The Paper Clip with the new short track aero package, and HMS has dominated with it at Phoenix Raceway and Richmond Raceway to start off the year.
  • Nevertheless, JGR still had presence out front at Richmond in the form of Hamlin, Truex and Bell despite coming away empty-handed. However, given that HMS has been firing on all cylinders in terms of dominance and leading laps this season, the advantage goes to Hendrick.

Stay Tuned

The NOCO 400 will take place on Sunday, April 16 at 3 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by FOX Sports 1.

About the author

Thanksgiving Photo

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch and is a three-year veteran of the site. His weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” He also writes commentary, contributes to podcasts, edits articles and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage.

Can find on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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