Joey Logano earns a historic NASCAR victory in the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Monday after a rain-delay on Sunday.
For the first time since 1970, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to racing on dirt. During the offseason, Bristol Motor Speedway was covered with dirt to offer fans a variety of racing venues this year. The NASCAR Truck Series has been racing on dirt the past couple of years at Eldora Speedway, but this was the grand return for the Cup Series. For drivers growing up sliding around dirt tracks, this is what reminds them of rising through the ranks of racing. For the other drivers growing up racing on asphalt, it was a learning experience.
Truex Dominates the First Stage
With the qualifying heats canceled due to rain on Saturday, Denny Hamlin drew the pole position. Hamlin quickly jumped to the bottom of the track but left the door open for Martin Truex Jr. to gain the lead.
Truex Jr. took early control while the rest of the field tried to find their groove. A caution came out after a spin from Aric Almirola on the front stretch. His spin collected three other drivers ending their racing day.
There were two other cautions in the first stage that took out many contenders. Kyle Larson was eliminated from contention after he was caught up in a wreck on lap 53.
Martin Truex Jr. continued to press on to win the first stage
Daniel Suarez Runs Hard in the Second Stage
Truex Jr. continued to lead heading into the second stage. The field began to find its footing as the front end of stage two ran caution-free.
On lap 33 of the second stage, Daniel Suarez pulled a bump and run move on Truex Jr. This move pushed Truex Jr. out of the way, and Suarez sneaked by underneath. Suarez continued to lead to the competition caution on lap 151.
After two single-car cautions involving Chase Briscoe and Cody Ware, a battle for the lead occurred for the stage win. Daniel Suarez fended Joey Logano off for a couple of laps before he was pushed out of the way.
Logano took the lead with six laps remaining in the segment. Daniel Suarez was unable to fight back as Logano wins the second stage.
The Third Stage Goes to Joey Logano
Joey Logano had an early battle with Denny Hamlin to kick off the final stage. Hamlin found grip in the dirt on the top side and was using it to his advantage. However, the top side dried up and Hamlin was forced to run the bottom.
Also running on the bottom, Logano gained an even bigger lead. Logano was able to weave his way through lapped traffic, closing out the race. Right when it seemed like Joey Logano was going to drive off with the win, the No. 66 of Mike Marlar cuts a tire and spins out on the front stretch. The Marlar spin brought out the caution with two laps remaining.
On the following restart, Denny Hamlin tried to redeem himself on the top but came up short. Joey Logano was able to pull away and win his first race of 2021 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Joey Logano is the seventh different driver to win a race this season in as many races. With 16 drivers eligible for the playoffs, the playoff field is beginning to fill up. Not even drivers who have a race win under their belt can feel comfortable. If more than 16 drivers win a race, the field is determined based on points to settle a tie breaker. It is important for teams to remaining on the gas going into the middle part of the season. Finishing position matters, stage points matter, and trying to grab more than one win is important to really secure a spot in the playoffs.
The Cup Series has many talented drivers now, and teams that are competing at a higher level than in the past. This year could be a goofy year where the series has more than sixteen different race winners. Teams that continue to strive for race wins and finishing positions will find themselves in a good position heading into the playoffs. Over the next two months, the schedule continues to throw a wrench at teams trying to gain momentum. With two short tracks, Talladega Super Speedway, and Darlington Raceway on the horizon, race cans could continue to see different faces in victory lane