Thief in the night: Kyle Busch steals the win in Bristol Dirt race

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - APRIL 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Mars Crunchy Cookie Toyota, takes the checkered flag ahead of Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch was a little stunned Sunday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch was running a comfortable third in the closing laps of the NASCAR Cup series Dirt race watching as Tyle Reddick and Chase Briscoe fought for the win on the final lap after taking the white flag.

Coming into turn 3 though, Briscoe charged under Reddick and spun both cars. Reddick rolled to the bottom of the track coming out of turn 4, and still pointing forward, headed towards the finish line. With momentum behind however, Busch was able to charge by at the line and win by .330 of a second over a disappointed Reddick who led a race high 99 laps.

“Yeah, we got one,” Busch said. “Doesn’t matter how you get ’em. It’s all about getting ’em. Can’t say enough. I mean, man, I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now. This is awesome. I didn’t do anything.

“Overall, just really pumped to be back. Real pumped to get a win. This one means a lot. I can win on any surface here at Bristol. Bring it on, baby.”

Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

Sunday was NASCAR’s second experiment on dirt and its first race on Easter since 1989. After a brief rain shower about an hour before the race dampened the track, the race got off to slow start when NASCAR had to stop the field on lap 15 and allow crews to clean mud from the grills of the cars.

Briscoe had taken the lead on lap 1 from his fourth place starting position and held the lead until he spun on lap 48. Kyle Larson would take the point and go on to win Stage 1 as more rain threatened.

At the stage break, Trackhouse Racing teammates Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain, along with Briscoe elected not to pit and Suarez held the lead on the restart after it was called off several times due to a light mist.

Suarez would hold the lead until lap 140 when Briscoe again took the top spot holding on to win Stage 2. During the stage break the rain fell harder and the field held in place.

Debate raged during the nearly one-and-a-half-hour rain delay as due to the quirky rules for the dirt race the top 10 led by Briscoe who was the leader when they pitted was scored with the lead. However, since pit stops were non-competitive, the field was frozen and since the race had already gone beyond the halfway distance making it an official race, Briscoe would have won the race had it been called due to rain. Under that scenario a total of 16 drivers who had stayed out led by Kyle Busch, would have been out of luck.

The controversy was avoided however, as the rain stopped, and the racing resumed.

Reddick took control when the race restarted with just under 100 laps to go. The Richard Childress Racing driver held the lead suffering through another rain delay of just over 15 minutes with 28 laps to go and the races 14th and final caution four laps later on lap 226.

In a battle that will be on highlight reels for years to come, Briscoe closed the gap in the final circuits, catching him and spinning both on the last corner of the last lap.

Reddick took the blame for his loss after it was over.

“I don’t think I did everything right, to be honest with you,” he said. “Briscoe was able to run me back down there. Just looking at it, I should have done a little bit better job of just — I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let him get that close. He ran me back down. Worked really hard to do that.

“I mean, you’re racing on dirt, going for the move on the final corner. It’s everything that as a driver you hope to battle for in his situation. Made it really exciting for the fans, so…

“It does suck, but we were able to finish second still. I’m being honest. I should have done a better job and pulled away so he wasn’t in range to try to make that move. That’s how I look at it.”

Briscoe finished 22nd. He also blamed himself.

“I was running Tyler down and I just tried throwing a slider,” he said. “I didn’t expect him to drive in there on me and I was spinning out, I think, either way and I hit him.  I feel terrible. I was wanting to race him clean.  I wasn’t gonna wreck him for the win. That’s why I tried to slide him and I was trying to leave him enough if I didn’t get there and that was my fault 100 percent.  I hate it for Tyler. He’s a good friend of mine and I wanted to see a dirt guy win if it wasn’t me.

“That was just racing.  I was trying to go for the win and I feel terrible for him.”

Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Michael McDowell, and Ty Dillon completed the top 10.

NASCAR heads to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend with the Cup series running the GEICO 500 on Sunday.

Photos: NASCAR at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday Apr. 17, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Food City Dirt Race
Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt
Bristol, Tennessee
Sunday, April 17, 2022

1. (11) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 250.

2. (3) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 250.

3. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 250.

4. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 250.

5. (25) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 250.

6. (8) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 250.

7. (2) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 250.

8. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 250.

9. (17) Michael McDowell, Ford, 250.

10. (7) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 250.

11. (18) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 250.

12. (21) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 250.

13. (1) Cole Custer, Ford, 250.

14. (6) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 250.

15. (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 250.

16. (20) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 250.

17. (23) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 250.

18. (19) William Byron, Chevrolet, 250.

19. (26) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 250.

20. (24) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 250.

21. (30) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 250.

22. (4) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 250.

23. (31) Aric Almirola, Ford, 250.

24. (14) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 250.

25. (36) Josh Williams(i), Ford, 250.

26. (35) Cody Ware, Ford, 250.

27. (28) Noah Gragson(i), Chevrolet, 248.

28. (22) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 245.

29. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 240.

30. (29) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, Accident, 221.

31. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.

32. (13) Kurt Busch, Toyota, Accident, 211.

33. (33) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, Engine, 150.

34. (32) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 100.

35. (34) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Engine, 91.

36. (27) Justin Allgaier(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 74.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 34.973 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 34 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.330 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 14 for 82 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Custer 0;C. Briscoe 1-48;K. Larson 49-75;D. Suarez 76-139;C. Briscoe 140-150;T. Reddick 151-249;K. Busch 250.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Tyler Reddick 1 time for 99 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 64 laps; Chase Briscoe 2 times for 59 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 27 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,42,20,3,18,48,22,8,12,47
Stage #2 Top Ten: 14,20,99,9,18,5,22,34,12,8

Greg Engle