Joey Logano drives away for Bristol dirt win

Nick Bromberg
·5-min read

Joey Logano is the seventh winner in seven Cup Series races in 2021.

Logano drove away from Denny Hamlin during the 50-lap final stage and drove away from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Hamlin on a two-lap restart to end Monday's rain-delayed race at Bristol. The race was the first Cup Series race on a dirt surface since 1970.

Hamlin finished third after Stenhouse passed him on the penultimate lap. Martin Truex Jr. fell from third to 19th on the final two laps after a cut tire on the final restart. Truex dominated the first portion of the race.

Bristol and NASCAR made the decision last year to host the annual spring race at the track on a temporary dirt surface. The idea came as NASCAR made myriad changes to the 2021 Cup Series schedule and was the biggest experiment of the season.

The novelty made it entertaining, even if there were more similarities to the concrete version of Bristol than you might have expected. The predominant groove was the bottom lane as drivers weren't able to get anything going in a second groove.

The race wasn't easy to see for fans at home. The track was exceptionally dusty and clouded a bunch of Fox's camera angles. Only close-up shots over the last half of the race were clear. Everything else looked like a movie from Mars.

The track was so dusty that NASCAR had to make a couple of in-race tweaks. NASCAR extended the stage break at Lap 200 of the 250-lap race to wet down the track and prepare it further. That move came after NASCAR ditched double-file restarts during the second stage after two wrecks right after restarts.

The two-wide restarts were generating a bunch of dust. That dust combined with a low sun angle from the setting sun was making it impossible for drivers to see.

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The dusty track came after NASCAR couldn't run the race on Sunday like originally scheduled. Torrential rain in Tennessee on Saturday night made track preparation for a Sunday race impossible and pushed both the Cup Series and Truck Series races to Monday.

The product was a success for Bristol, however. The track announced before the third stage that the spring race at the track in 2022 would also be a dirt track race. This season's fall race is still scheduled to be on the permanent concrete track at the facility.

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 29: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 29, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - MARCH 29: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 29, 2021 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Bell and Larson crash together

Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson were two of the drivers to beat entering the race because of their dirt track expertise. And that was on display early, especially from Larson. He had to start at the back of the field because of an engine change and charged up to the top 10 in the first stage.

His chances for the win ended when he collided with Bell after Bell spun around. Bell was trying to work in the top groove of the track and got loose. Larson had nowhere to go and ran into Bell. 

"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," Bell said.

Larson ended up in 29th while Bell was forced to immediately retire his car from the race because of engine damage. He finished 34th. 

Suarez's strong run

Daniel Suarez led 58 laps on Monday and finished a deserved fourth. He had one of the best cars all race long and was very competitive with Truex, Logano, and Hamlin.

It was somewhat of a surprise performance for Suarez and his Trackhouse Racing team. Suarez entered the race with a best finish of 15th this season and hadn’t led more than 20 laps in a race since he led 25 at Texas in the fall of 2019 while racing for Stewart-Haas Racing.

The top-five finish vaulted Suarez up to 20th in the points standings. He's probably not a threat for the playoffs just yet. But if that Bristol dirt performance isn't a fluke then he could find himself in contention for a postseason berth. 

Race results

1. Joey Logano

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

3. Denny Hamlin

4. Daniel Suarez

5. Ryan Newman

6. William Byron

7. Tyler Reddick

8. Ryan Blaney

9. Erik Jones

10. Chase Elliott

11. Brad Keselowski

12. Michael McDowell

13. Matt DiBenedetto

14. Chris Buescher

15. Kevin Harvick

16. Kurt Busch

17. Kyle Busch

18. Ryan Preece

19. Martin Truex Jr.

20. Chase Briscoe

21. Austin Dillon

22. Alex Bowman

23. Stewart Friesen

24. Cole Custer

25. Quin Houff

26. Ty Dillon

27. Bubba Wallace

28. JJ Yeley

29. Kyle Larson

30. Josh Bilicki

31. Mike Marlar

32. Cody Ware

33. Chris Windom

34. Christopher Bell

35. Ross Chastain

36. Aric Almirola

37. Shane Golobic

38. Corey LaJoie

39. Anthony Alfredo

Points standings

1. Denny Hamlin, 327 points

2. Joey Logano, 269

3. Martin Truex Jr., 247

4. Kyle Larson, 242

5. Brad Keselowski, 232

6. William Byron, 228

7. Ryan Blaney, 226

8. Kevin Harvick, 225

9. Chase Elliott, 211

10. Christopher Bell, 186

10. Austin Dillon, 186

12. Michael McDowell, 183

12. Kyle Busch, 183

14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 180

15. Kurt Busch, 173

16. Alex Bowman, 172

17. Chris Buescher, 168

18. Ryan Preece, 154

19. Ryan Newman, 149

20. Daniel Suarez, 144

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