Joey Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang came on strong at the end of Stage 2 in Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and he didn’t look back as he took the win over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in an overtime finish.
Logano climbed from his car elated as he pounded the roof and saluted to fans.
According to Logano, the work he put in over the last few weeks on the dirt in his extra curricular time, paid off in a big way.
“Man, we did a lot of work in the dirt department over the last few weeks,” Logano said. “My buddy Ryan Flores and my car chief Jerry Kelly doing a good job with the modified. Just making laps and learning where I was going. A lot of that helped. Kevin Buskirk helped a lot too, he has a lot of knowledge. And obviously, Paul Wolfe and this team.”
This marks Logano’s first win of 2021, making him the seventh different winner in the opening seven NASCAR Cup Series races of the year, and it is his 27th-career NCS victory.
For Stenhouse, this is his best finish since a second-place effort at Talladega last spring. And this runner-up finish came after his car was not very good on the green race track.
“Yeah, our Kroger car was really good on the long run,” Stenhous explained. “Just needed a little more NOS Energy Drink for the restarts. Just couldn’t get going, couldn’t get the turn in the racecar that I needed. We made a lot of adjustments and we kind of went back and forth overnight of what we were going to do.”
Behind Stenhouse, was Denny Hamlin in third. Hamlin appeared to have something for Logano for a period of time in the closing laps, but as the race was drawing to a close, Hamlin slapped the wall and then on the final restart, he tried the top lane, which did not pay off.
“I really couldn’t see a whole lot,” Hamlin explained. “I was kind of guessing. But I mean, I thought I just could, on that last restart, run the top in hard, but they didn’t prep it in between cautions like they did before, so, it was just marbles up there.”
Daniel Suarez, who impressed by leading 58 laps on the day, finished fourth and Ryan Newman snagged a fifth-place finish after spinning on lap 46.
William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Martin Truex Jr., who led a race-high 126 laps and won Stage 1, faded to a 19th-place finish after lining up third on the final restart of the race.
Bubba Wallace also had the best race for his new 23XI Racing team going, as he was running ninth in the final stage. Then, contact with Stenhouse sent him around with a flat tire. Wallace would finish 27th, two laps off the pace.
Overall, the first NASCAR Cup Series dirt race in nearly 51 years will be remembered as a wild affair, where track conditions came into play late. A thick coating of dust made seeing nearly impossible for the drivers near the end of Stage 2 and through the final Stage.
The dust was so bad, that NASCAR adjusted and went to single file restarts as opposed to double-file restarts.
“It’s a very common practice if you experience that situation to try and go single file to alleviate some of the dust, some of the visibility issues,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said after the race. “So, that’s why we made that move. We felt once we made that move, we were going to stay with it for the duration of the race.”
However, even with the drivers limited on vision, the show was entertaining as drivers clung to the edge of grip on the makeshift dirt track all race long.
Bristol Motor Speedway and NASCAR announced mid-race that the dirt race at Bristol will return for the 2022 season.