Crashes eliminate several favorites and nearly take out the leader at Bristol

They were supposed to be the favorites. Two accomplished dirt aces racing in NASCAR’s first dirt race since 1970.

For Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson however, any hope of winning ended early.

Bell was running second on lap 53, two laps after a restart for a competition caution. Bell got too far to the outside however and spun coming out of turn 2. Larson had no time to slow and t-boned Bell’s Toyota. Both cars slid down the track sweeping up both Kevin Harvick and Ross Chastain.

“Way to go, Bell—way to go,” Larson said on his team radio after the wreck.

Larson and Harvick were both able to continue, though Larson fell two laps down and was never back in contention. He finished 29th five laps down and capped off a miserable day that saw him crash out of the truck series race earlier in the day. On lap 99 of that race, Larson was unable to slow for the slow truck of Mike Marlar and plowed into him ending his race.

Bell and Chastain were both eliminated in the crash in the Cup race. Bell finished 34th, Chastain 35th.

“I was just trying to run the water in under yellow,” Bell said after a visit to the infield care center. “I knew it was a little bit slick, but I felt like I could go up there and make some time, and I kind of entered shallow underneath of it and tried to pick it up on exit, and it was just really greasy up there.

“That was a lot of fun, being able to be out there for that first run was really cool and hate it that I can’t be out there longer.”

Just a few laps earlier, on lap 41, Aric Almirola set off a five-car crash that nearly took out Martin Truex Jr., who had won the earlier truck race and was leading.

“Holy crap—that was close!” Truex said on his team radio. Truex would win the first stage and lead a race-high 126 laps. But he cut a tire while running third on the final lap of overtime and finished 19th.

Greg Engle