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Christopher Bell, Dirt Guys Dominate Bristol Dirt

Christopher Bell stands tall in victory lane at dirt Bristol Motor Speedway after winning the April 9, 2023 Food City Dirt Race. Photo by Jeff Ames/TRE

BRISTOL, TENN. — For the first time, a dirt guy won the NASCAR Cup Series season’s lone dirt race – and one of the best, Christopher Bell, got it done against five other dirt guys Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Christopher Bell earned his first win of the 2023 Cup Series season after leading every lap of the final 100-lap stage. The final stage featured five cautions and several drivers challenging Bell’s reign.

Tyler Reddick worked for seven laps to get close enough for a final-lap slide job on Bell. Then, as Reddick pulled the trigger, a wrecked car stopped in turn three triggered a race-ending caution and gave Bell the win.

“Man, let me tell you, these are some of the longest laps of my entire life. This place is so much fun, whether it is dirt or concrete. Whenever the cushion got up there on the top, it was very tough because you couldn’t drive it super hard otherwise you’d get sucked in. If you got your right front into it, you’d push a little bit. If you got your right rear into it, you’d slide. It was a lot of fun,” Bell said.

For the second in a row, Reddick finished second to a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. However, he led 69 laps and won the second stage.

Tyler Reddick races April 9, 2023, in the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Photo: Jeff Ames/TRE

“It was a lot of fun honestly, really intense. Toward the end there, I definitely felt like I had a little bit more. I thought I had the edge, but I wasn’t quite there in the last couple laps. Definitely found it,” Reddick said. “I just needed to be a little bit closer than I was. I think with two to go, it would have been really bold to try to make that move work. Obviously on the white flag coming into three and fewer, I was going to see. We will never know if it worked. But still a good rebound for us.”

In third, behind Reddick, was Austin Dillon who finished second in each stage Sunday.

Dillon earned 52 points, which is the most points he scored in a single Cup Series race. He tied Bell for the most points earned in Sunday’s race.

Austin Dillon races his No. 3 Chevrolet in the April 9, 2023 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Photo: Jeff Ames/TRE

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top-five.

Stenhouse’s fourth-place finish is his best since winning the Daytona 500, while Briscoe’s fifth-place finish is his first top-5 finish of 2023.

“I thought the track was awesome. I thought that was the most realistic dirt race you’re gonna get with real dirt cars. I felt like we finally saw the dirt guys shine for that same reason, so I had a lot of fun running the top like that. It actually built a little bit of a cushion. It’s still not much, but it was just a lot of fun,” Briscoe said.

Chase Briscoe races his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford around dirt Bristol Motor Speedway, April 8, 2023, in his heat for the Food City Dirt Race. Photo: Jeff Ames/TRE

Justin Haley finished sixth and also earned his best finish of 2023.

Martin Truex Jr., Todd Gilliland, Kevin Harvick and Ty Gibbs, who edged out Michael McDowell, rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Gilliland, McDowell and Harvick recovered from separate incidents on laps 12, 89 and 202.

“I think our car was good when it was really tacky. I got in that very first wreck and when I was a lap down it was so fun. I was absolutely hanging on. I thought I was gonna spin out on entry and exit. It was pretty bad at the end, but I’m happy we came away with a decent finish,” Gilliland said. We didn’t really have the entry grip or the exit grip we needed when it got really slick. It goes through such a big swing. I feel like for a majority of the race we were OK. Frustrating because I thought we could have got a better finish, but that’s racing sometimes.”

“I don’t know how you could do that. I literally had two 360’s without hitting anything. The first one was on my own. I just went full lock and ran out of steering to the right and I just stayed in it and it was straight and I’m like, ‘Oh, man. I only lost two spots.’ And then on the last one I’m not sure. That is a very fortunate night when you can do two 360s, not get clobbered by the field and come away with a top 10, is OK,” McDowell said.

Stage One Top 10: Kyle Larson, A. Dillon, Kyle Busch, Ryan Preece, Ryan Blaney, Bell, Briscoe, Reddick, Haley, William Byron

Kyle Larson races his No. 5 Chevrolet in the April 9, 2023 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Photo: Jeff Ames/TRE

Larson led every lap of the first, 75-lap stage and had the car to beat. However, he lost the lead and finished third in stage two.

Stage Two Top 10: Reddick, A. Dillon, Larson, Bell, Busch, Briscoe, Truex Jr., Blaney, Haley, Aric Almirola

Then, strategies shuffled Larson out of the top-10 for the third stage. While trying to get back to the front, Larson spun in turn four on lap 157 and dropped out of the top 25.

On lap 176, Ryan Preece roughed Larson up for a lap 104 incident. Exiting turn four, Larson nearly hit the wall, then drove down the track and made contact with Preece. Larson got the worst of it as he spun and hit the outside turn one wall.

Ryan Preece races his No. 41 Ford in the April 9, 2023 Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Photo: Jeff Ames/TRE

The wreck also collected dirt ace Jonathan Davenport, who finished 36th, behind Larson, out of the race.

Kyle Busch was the only other leader. Busch led from laps 135-140. However a broken right-front shock took him out with 15 to go. He finished 32nd.

Previous Bristol dirt winner and 2023 Trucks Bristol dirt winner Joey Logano finished 37th – last – after hitting the wall several times in the first 96 laps.

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is April 16 at Martinsville Speedway (3 p.m. ET; TV: FS1; Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Ch. 90).

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