By Brandon Nunley
April 17th marked the return of the NASCAR Cup series to the Bristol Motor Speedway, the iconic short track is considered one of the greatest on the NASCAR circuit. In the days and weeks leading up to the cup race other series and cars took the track, but all heads were turned last weekend towards NASCAR’s top level, the Cup Series.
For the 2nd year in a row the racing surface was covered in dirt in hopes of providing a new sense of action and returning the sport closer to its roots. With this race being on the dirt, many fans and analysts had their eyes focused on Kyle Larson for Sunday’s race. His reputation for being one of the best drivers on dirt in NASCAR designated him as a favorite going into the weekend. As the green flag waved it was evident Larson was not the only driver looking to show off their skills, as competitors like Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suareåz and Tyler Reddick were quick from the gun. A short caution to allow teams to remove mud from the grills slowed the action down but could not tame it. Kyle Larson cruised to a stage 1 win, hinting toward his intentions to take home the checkered flag at the end of the race.
After a quick pit stop during the stage break, stage 2 was ready to get rolling. The 2nd stage was fairly quiet for some time but saw last year’s 3rd place finisher Denny Hamlin drop out on lap 92 due to engine failure. Lap 99 saw a 4-car pileup taking out 21-year NASCAR veteran Kevin Harvick with heavy rear damage from the #16 car of Noah Gragson. Stage 2 was brought to an end by Chase Briscoe crossing the line 1st wrapping up the second section of the race. The end of stage 2 would bring the action to a halt as a rain cell moved in and prompted a nearly hour-long rain delay.
Stage 3 offered 100 laps of action-packed dirt racing that was nothing short of exciting. With 39 laps to go, Austin Dillion’s car had a mechanical failure in the middle of the pack and began to fall straight back. Many drivers were lucky to avoid the car but Kurt Busch caught the bumper of Dillon’s car sending himself into the outside wall. This incident would be the end of the race for both the #3 car of Dillon and the #45 car of Kurt Busch. The rain would persist and yet again as while under caution for the Dillon-Busch incident NASCAR elected to have another rain delay.
The final 24 laps of the race put on one of the best finishes Bristol has seen in recent years. Attention shifted away from Larson as he fell back to 4th with a considerable gap to the next car. All eyes were on Tyler Reddick. While looking for his first win of his cup series career, Reddick battled Chase Briscoe lap after lap. The white flag waved signaling one lap remaining which left both drivers desperate to do whatever it would take to win. In turns 3 and 4 Briscoe made a last-ditch effort to pass Reddick, sliding his car up into Reddick’s and spinning them both out. Reddick was able to get turned straight and head toward the line but it would be Kyle Busch who charged from behind to steal the victory by just 0.33 seconds. This would be Kyle Busch’s 9th career victory at Bristol.
Bristol Motor Speedway is located just 15 minutes away from King University. Twice every year Bristol becomes flooded with race fans from all over the country looking to see the stock cars battle it out at The Last Great Colosseum. This large influx of people brings the city to life by bringing more people to Bristol’s businesses, parks, and attractions. Along with the arrival of the racing series comes the sound. While racing the cars can be heard all around town, flooding the hills of Bristol with the roar of V8 racing engines.
When race week comes, Bristol is sure to be treated with vigorous competition and a sense of livelihood throughout the area. NASCAR returns to Bristol Motor Speedway’s traditional concrete format for the fall race on September 17th. For tickets, info, and more you can visit the racetrack website here.