Drivers and crew members will leave Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt track with mementos, particles of Tennessee red clay on their uniforms, in their hair and all over. Joey Logano will be the only one to leave with the trophy after winning the first NASCAR Cup Series race on dirt since 1970.
Delayed a day by rain and flooding, clear, sunny skies helped bake the track Monday and turn the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” into the “World’s Dirtiest Half-Mile” – leading to an in-race rule change by NASCAR to go to single-file restarts, because of the dust being kicked up.
MORE: Bristol to again host Cup cars on dirt in 2022
MORE: Results of Monday’s Cup race
Logano, who has had two runner-up finishes this year, became the seventh different winner to open the season. That last happened in 2014. The win is the 27th of his Cup career.
“The guys were joking that I’m going to change my name to Joe Dirt now,” Logano said after his overtime victory.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second. Denny Hamlin placed third and was followed by Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman.
Logano withstood Hamlin’s attempt on the final restart. Because of dust, restarts over the final 85 laps were single-file instead of double-file. Hamlin’s move to the outside failed and Stenhouse got by for second as Logano pulled away.
“I had an opportunity there to choose if I was going to make a move on him on the high side or the low side. I chose high and the track was just too slick,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, he didn’t get a very good restart. I was on him entering Turn 1.”
Asked why he didn’t “go through” Logano since bump and runs are common on short tracks, Hamlin said: “I think me and (Logano) race differently. I don’t have that mentality.”
Said Logano: “I was fully prepared to get the bumper. I figured that was going to come at some point. You get a green-white-checkered at Bristol – I don’t care if it’s dirt, concrete, you name it, there’s probably going to be contact, but we were able to have a good enough start to prevent that.”
The track proved unkind to some of those with dirt experience and expected to be contenders. On Lap 53, Christopher Bell spun and was hit by two cars, including Kyle Larson‘s car. That ended Bell’s race and Larson’s chances.
Because of high tire wear in Friday’s practice sessions, Monday’s 250-lap race was divided into 50-lap segments to allow teams to pit for tires. Before the final 50-lap segment, NASCAR extended the stage break to 10 minutes to water the track and try to limit the amount of dust.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.
STAGE 2 WINNER: Joey Logano
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s runner-up finish is his first top five since he was second at Talladega in June 2020. … Denny Hamlin’s third-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the first seven races of the season. … Daniel Suarez’s fourth-place finish is the best for Trackhouse Racing. … Ryan Newman’s fifth-place result is his first top five since he was second at Talladega in October 2019. … William Byron‘s sixth-place finish was his fifth consecutive top-10 finish, the longest in his career.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Aric Almirola‘s struggles continue. On Lap 41, he spun in the middle of the track and was tagged by Shane Golobic, then drilled by Anthony Alfredo‘s car. That contact spun Almirola’s car into the path of Corey LaJoie‘s car. Almirola finished 36th. This is the fourth time in seven races this season Almirola has finished 30th or worse. … Christopher Bell spun while running second and was hit by Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain. Bell finished 34th.
NOTABLE: Joey Logano’s win gives him at least one victory in 10 consecutive seasons.
NEXT: The series is off this weekend for Easter. The series’ next race is April 10 at Martinsville Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).