The NASCAR Cup Series has only experimented with dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway for two years, yet both editions saw dilemmas dominate their headlines. After the 2021 Food City Dirt Race was marred by visibility concerns, the 2022 race was drenched with rain, covered in mud, and overshadowed by a scoring controversy. In spite of this, the race came down to a wild duel between Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe that ended with neither winning as Kyle Busch snuck through their last-corner wreck for the victory.
The drama began just ten laps after pole-sitter Cole Custer took the green flag when mud soaked multiple cars’ grilles and overheated their engines until NASCAR called a mandatory caution to allow everyone to clean them. Custer and Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Aric Almirola had pitted prior to the yellow to address the issue which dropped them a lap down before NASCAR restored their lap, though neither regained their positions.
Kevin Harvick, who was later involved in a crash during the second stage, called out a “terrible job prepping the track and full of mud and there was nobody here to pack the track, so we all look like a bunch of bozos coming in to pit because we don’t know how to prep the track.”
Fellow SHR driver and dirt ace Briscoe took the lead on lap two and led forty-eight laps before blowing a right-rear tyre and hitting the wall. Another dirt star in Kyle Larson led the field to the restart with fifteen laps remaining in the stage and won ahead of Ty Dillon, Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon, Busch, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Reddick, Ryan Blaney, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The stage ended under caution after Justin Allgaier hit the wall.
Stage #2 saw multiple wrecks beginning with Bowman’s spin on lap 91. A larger crash collected Harvick, Bowman, Noah Gragson, and Corey LaJoie on lap 99, followed by Brad Keselowski‘s spin fourteen laps later after contact with Austin Dillon, a lap 125 debris yellow, and LaJoie going around on lap 131. Amid the cautions, Daniel Suárez led much of the stage before losing the position to Briscoe on the final restart with ten laps remaining. Bell passed Suárez for second, while Chase Elliott, Busch, Larson, Logano, Michael McDowell, Blaney, and Reddick.
Controversy returned to the race as rain arrived between stages: Briscoe pitted while Busch stayed out, which would typically give Busch the lead for the ensuing stage. However, NASCAR’s rules for dirt races stipulate the running order is frozen during stage breaks, meaning Briscoe officially remained the leader though he surrendered the spot anyway due to his stop. After a brief period of trying to get on pit road, during which Bell slid down the track after losing control in the mud, NASCAR red-flagged the race for nearly an hour.
Once the rain subsided, the race resumed approximately an hour later. Busch quickly sank from the lead as Stage #3 commenced, which gave the spot to Reddick. Stenhouse spun on lap 161, which gave way to the adage of cautions breeding cautions when the ensuing restart lasted just a single lap before Jones went around. Stenhouse’s spin was predicated by Elliott and Cody Ware colliding, which sparked jabs at each other over the radio before Ware clipped Elliott under caution. Todd Gilliland was the next caution victim for his lap 177 spin.
Busch gave chase to Reddick before Stenhouse hit the wall and produced another caution on the 202nd circuit. Both 23XI Racing drivers saw their races fall apart on opposite ends of the caution as Bubba Wallace pitted for an engine problem while Kurt Busch was shot into the wall after being caught between Dillon’s blown engine and J.J. Yeley. Rain returned to the track during the ensuing yellow flag, leading to a twenty-minute delay.
What was ultimately the final restart took place with twenty-three laps remaining. As Briscoe battled with Busch and Logano for second, Reddick developed a solid lead for the next twenty laps before Briscoe held off his adversary and began closing the gap.
Aided by faster times and lapped traffic, Briscoe was able to reach Reddick’s bumper by the final lap before attempting to make his move in turns three and four: Briscoe dove to the inside, but carried too much speed into the corner and clipped Reddick, causing the two to spin. Busch slipped by the leaders to escape with his sixtieth career Cup win and ninth at Bristol. He also records his eighteenth consecutive Cup season with a victory, tying the all-time record set by Richard Petty from 1960 to 1977.
After recovering from his spin, Reddick limped across the line in second while Briscoe was twenty spots behind him. In spite of losing the win, Briscoe and Reddick were gracious in defeat as they discussed the matter post-race, during which Briscoe apologised for the move, before wishing each other well with a handshake. Briscoe tweeted, “Last 10 laps was the hardest I’ve ever ran a car in my entire life. Tried throwing a slide job on the last corner and knew as soon as I went into the corner I was spinning out with how much speed I carried… hate that it got Tyler in the process. Appreciate Tyler’s understanding.”
“I don’t think I did everything right, to be honest with you,” Reddick told FOX Sports. “Briscoe was able to run me back down there. I shouldn’t let him get that close. He ran me back down, worked really hard to do that. 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 this situation and made it really exciting for the fans. It does suck, but we were able to finish second still. Being honest, I should have done a better job and pulled away so he wasn’t in range to try and make that move.”
Busch’s victory came despite leading zero laps prior to the white flag and as the benefactor of a surprise wreck, and many pointed out the irony in this factoid due to his comments regarding Las Vegas winner Bowman. At said race in March, he accused Bowman of backing into wins after he won in overtime and five of his seven career victories have been after taking the lead with less than ten laps remaining. During the first red flag, Wallace—a Toyota ally—even remarked that Busch should be “ready for the Mickey Mouse tweets” in the event that he won.
“It doesn’t matter how you get ’em, it’s all about getting ’em,” remarked Busch in his interview with FOX. “I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now. This is awesome. I didn’t even do anything.”
|1||11||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|2||3||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|3||10||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||250||Running|
|4||5||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|5||25||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||250||Running|
|6||8||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|7||2||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|8||9||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|9||17||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||250||Running|
|10||7||42||Ty Dillon||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|11||18||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|12||21||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|13||1||41||Cole Custer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|14||6||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|15||15||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|16||20||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||250||Running|
|17||23||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||250||Running|
|18||19||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|19||26||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|20||24||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|21||30||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||250||Running|
|22||4||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|23||31||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|24||14||43||Erik Jones||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|25||36||78||Josh Williams*||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford||250||Running|
|26||35||51||Cody Ware||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||250||Running|
|27||28||16||Noah Gragson*||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||248||Running|
|28||22||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||245||Running|
|29||16||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||240||Running|
|30||29||15||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||221||Accident|
|31||12||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||211||Accident|
|32||13||45||Kurt Busch||23XI Racing||Toyota||211||Accident|
|33||33||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||150||Engine|
|34||32||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||100||Accident|
|35||34||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||91||Engine|
|36||27||77||Justin Allgaier*||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||74||Accident|
* – Ineligible for Cup points