Christopher Bell Wins Intense Bristol NASCAR Cup Series Dirt Race

Christopher Bell celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday. (Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images)

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Before Sunday night’s Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell lamented that a “dirt guy” hadn’t won the NASCAR Cup Series’ only race on the red clay in Thunder Valley. 

Bell fixed the problem—in a race that also saw hard feelings between pole winner Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece boil over. 

Holding off charging Tyler Reddick in the final stage of the 250-lap race, Bell held a slim lead over Reddick when NASCAR called the 14th caution with 200 yards left in the final circuit. 

A dirt-track aficionado who won three straight Chili Bowl Midget Nationals from 2017-2019, Bell collected his first victory of the season and the fifth of his career. 

“Man, let me tell you, these are some of the longest laps of my entire life,” Bell said of the lates stages of the race. “This place is so much fun, whether it’s dirt or concrete. Whenever the cushion got up there on the top, it was very tough, because you couldn’t drive it super hard. Otherwise, you’d get sucked in.  

“If you got your right front into it, you’d push a little bit. If you got your right rear into it, you’d slide. It was a lot of fun.” 

Bell used his experience on dirt to negotiate the two ends of the half-mile track, which featured markedly different racing characteristics. 

“(Turns) 3 and 4, that was the scary corner for me, because if you got into it too far, you lost all your momentum,” the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota explained. (Turns) 1 and 2, I think I kept hitting the wall a couple times.  

“Seems like there was a little bit more moisture up there—it would hold me better. I’m like, ‘OK, I can really attack 1 and 2.’ But 3 and 4, I had to be careful… Definitely the track tonight favored experience.” 

Staying out on old tires after the end of Stage 2, Bell led the last 100 laps. Reddick, on the other hand, forewent a pit stop after Stage 1 and won Stage 2, but paid the price with a pit stop at the second break and rested 12th on Lap 151. 

It wasn’t until Lap 223 that Reddick passed eventual fifth-place finisher Chase Briscoe for the second position, as Briscoe scraped the outside wall in Turn 4. Reddick began his pursuit of Bell, but the final caution foiled any opportunity he might have had. 

“Yeah, towards the end there definitely feel like I had a little bit more,” Reddick said. “I thought I had the edge, but I wasn’t quite there in the last couple laps. Definitely found it.  

“Just hate it for everybody on this (No. 45 23XI Racing) Toyota. Just needed to be a little bit closer than I was. I think with two (laps) to go, it would have been really bold to try to make that move work. Obviously, on the white flag coming into (Turns) 3 and 4, I was going to see. We’ll never know if it (would have) worked.” 

Larson won 75-lap Stage 1 wire-to-wire, but he angered Preece with a move that forced the Stewart-Haas Racing driver into the outside wall. On Lap 175, 20 circuits after Larson spun and fell to the rear of the field, Preece returned the favor in Turn 4. Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet then shot to the inside into the door of Preece’s No. 41 Ford before spinning into the outside wall. 

“Yeah, I’m guessing he was paying me back for whatever I did earlier,” said Larson, who exited the race with suspension damage to his car. “He ran me straight into the fence, and my car was broke and we crashed.  

“It sucks, but I should just be mad at myself for spinning out earlier and putting myself back there. Just sucks.” 

Austin Dillon ran third, followed by Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Briscoe and Justin Haley, as drivers with dirt-track backgrounds claimed the top six finishing positions. Martin Truex Jr., Todd Gilliland, Kevin Harvick and Ty Gibbs completed the top 10. 

“I just have to thank (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) for all of the hard work they’ve done with this dirt racing,” Dillon said. “I don’t care what anybody says, that was an amazing show throughout the field. I felt like it was some great racing.” 


NASCAR Cup Series Race – Food City Dirt Race

Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt

Bristol, Tennessee

Sunday, April 9, 2023

                    1. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 250.

                    2. (6)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 250.

                    3. (2)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 250.

                    4. (22)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 250.

                    5. (14)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 250.

                    6. (25)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 250.

                    7. (27)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 250.

                    8. (15)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 250.

                    9. (26)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 250.

                    10. (23)  Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 250.

                    11. (13)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 250.

                    12. (11)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 250.

                    13. (10)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 250.

                    14. (18)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 250.

                    15. (20)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 250.

                    16. (29)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 250.

                    17. (33)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 250.

                    18. (28)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 250.

                    19. (7)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 250.

                    20. (3)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 250.

                    21. (32)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 250.

                    22. (30)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 250.

                    23. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 250.

                    24. (8)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 250.

                    25. (34)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 250.

                    26. (37)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 250.

                    27. (31)  Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 250.

                    28. (16)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 249.

                    29. (17)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 248.

                    30. (35)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 247.

                    31. (19)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 240.

                    32. (5)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Suspension, 236.

                    33. (36)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 205.

                    34. (24)  Matt Crafton(i), Ford, Engine, 185.

                    35. (1)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 177.

                    36. (21)  Jonathan Davenport, Chevrolet, Accident, 176.

                    37. (12)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 96.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  46.68 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 40 Mins, 40 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  14 for 71 laps.

Lead Changes:  4 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-75;T. Reddick 76-134;K. Busch 135-140;T. Reddick 141-150;C. Bell 151-250.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Christopher Bell 1 time for 100 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 75 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 69 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 6 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 5,3,8,41,12,20,14,45,31,24

Stage #2 Top Ten: 45,3,5,20,8,14,19,12,31,10


  1. Rather entertaining race. Cars running all over the track.

    The 360ºs were freaking awesome. Made even better that the track stayed green.

    Preece ran very good until a damn toe link broke. Came back from two laps down, then he was on his way to the front but ran out of laps.

    Anybody else notice Larson has had Hendrick sponsorship for a very long time?

  2. Fast Eddie says

    Dareal, Hendrick is also sponsoring Greg Anderson’s NHRA Pro Stock car as well. Maybe something tax-related with those sponsorships?
    I think Danny Sullivan’s “spin and win” story has some competition. Granted McDowell didn’t win, but to spin TWICE in the same race, not crash, and and keep going? THanks was pretty wild!

  3. Fast Eddie, Greg Anderson’s ride is owned by KB Titan Racing, which Greg is not an owner.

    With the Larson Cup ride, Hendrick is sponsoring his own car. Hendrick would be better off with a sponsor and the $30 million per year that brings the organization.

  4. Preece muscled up to Larson. Good job showing he is not gonna get pushed around. He needed to do this.

  5. What Rich said.

    All other drivers will now think twice if they think Preece will lift. He needed to do this.

  6. I caught part of a Nascar Bristol race rerun from the Car of Tomorrow era when they had those ugly wings on the back. The crowd was jam packed, no sectioned off areas for advertising. No empty sections at all. The Bristol pavement crowd was significantly better than the crowd at the Cup race on dirt last night. Do you think attendance was bad because it was Easter Sunday? They started 43 cars in the Nascar classic race and only 37 last night. I also saw a bunch of national sponsors in the race from yesteryear. Not many empty quarter panels. The current cup cars have sponsors but not many sponsors I immediately recognized. I have read ratings have been down for every race this year compared to last season. I have heard cord cutting is causing many sports to see a decline in viewership. Interest seems to be way down from fans to participants to sponsors. The racing was fine in both shows. I would argue the dirt race was more interesting probably because of the novelty. The classic Nascar had more drivers I recognized and liked. Everything seemed to be bigger and better in the classic Nascar over todays Nascar. Just an observation having viewed two races from the same track separated by maybe 15 years. Something has gone terribly wrong with the sport. Not sure what is wrong, but it is obvious it really was better back in the day.

  7. Hendrick cars dealership apparently out bid all the competitors for the larson sponsorship. it is a paid deal.

    csg, yea the old Bristol reruns are more jarring than most looking back on.

    But at the end of the day, that is right around when they completely changed the track. took the hottest ticket in the sport and tried to make it “better” and ruined it.

    also, the spring date was weather impacted like 5 years in a row. That’s enough to kill any event.

    as for the 43 vs 37 car argument, NASCAR and its teams made the decision to focus on the 36 chartered teams, and essentially not pay out any other car. i would argue there are more capable teams today than back then, in part due to that.

    Ratings are down this year. They are down for pretty much every sport. NASCAR is probably down ~12%, and overall TV usage is down ~12% this year. not a ton they can do.

    The sport peaked massively in that ’03-’09 range. It was never sustainable. all signs point to them getting a bigger TV deal in 2025 so they’ll be fine.

  8. The status of nascar csg, is one of those things to me, in my opinion has been a subject of many, fans for years. Its up, it’s down, it’s good, it’s bad, or stick a fork in em!
    They are still around, and I would argue, that just like the local short track scene currently, its all tv, or streaming revenue driven, supporting the sport. I personally feel, car racing of any type, will never be as popular as baseball, football, hockey, basketball, so on and so forth. Thats why I can record a race on sunday, and not know who won the race until I finish it on dvr, provided I stay away from sites like racedayct, RA, before I finish watching. You get the drift. However, to your point, I think the stands Sunday night, were emptier than normal. When Nascar first scheduled this race for Easter Sunday night, I know I kind of scratched my head a bit. But, basketball, football on Christmas, so I guess…….
    I thought it was a great race, but Ive always liked dirt. To Nascar’s credit here, a great job done on the track, racing grooves all over, and the track mostly stayed in one piece until the end.
    Credit to Nascar to make the changes from last year to this year on the next gen cars, to make them more race-able and reliable compared to last years show. I think the controlled cautions for this event was a good call, to enable crews to clean out all the dirt traps and the new protective filters on the cars during those cautions. But you could also stay out on cautions, and take the gamble like reddick and bell did, and have it pay off.
    As for Preece, I understand not getting pushed around. But, pick your spots. I thought it wasn’t the smartest move on his part. Bowyer said, looks like retaliation, and first thing out of stewarts mouth was, “I hope not”.
    Imo, preece, through no real fault of his own, has torn up some stuff this year. To intentionally tear his or other racers stuff up this early on, might not be his best career move. And as they say, what goes around comes around…. Jmo

  9. ” Thats why I can record a race on sunday, and not know who won the race until I finish it on dvr, provided I stay away from sites like racedayct, RA, before I finish watching.”

    There you go. Most of us do it to a greater or lesser extent. The reason is to blast past commercials.
    That may also be the motivation to monetize sports on subscription services and away from broadcast TV. Lower ratings numbers baked in but it’s fine they’re getting a revenue stream via subscriptions up front.
    NFL football live gate is more about atmosphere and energy then revenue. It pales in comparison to TV revenue. To a lesser extent the same thing is true with CUP.
    Apple bought the rights to Major League Soccer, Amazon paid some ungodly amount for the rights to Thursday night football. Cord cutting not a trend at this stage more terminal many believe Ala carte inevitable via HBO/Max, Paramount, Hulu, Peacock etc, etc, etc. The elephant being the NFL is being careful not to kill the golden goose but at some point their Sunday games will follow the ESPN and Amazon model.
    Comparing the days of yore when NASCAR was a big deal on live TV with increasing ratings and packed houses to now is like comparing apples and oranges. Blame increased speeds on the internet, DVR’s and our interest in paying only for what we want to watch not including 30 other channels we never watch.
    The minute they started moving away from broadcast TV they knew the ratings would go down and likely attendance as well I’d bet on it. But were no longer prepared to give it all away while we and our DVR’s discouraged advertisers from paying the big bucks for commercials we’d never see.
    It’s all about content now and monetizing the product you’re paying to produce. They caught up to us and our DVR’s so now it’s pay something up front to watch our stuff then blast through the commercials if you like. I’d bet they’re satisfied with decreased ratings and a reliable income stream as opposed to increased ratings and less money as advertisers pay less and less every year for commercial time that we’re so good at dodging.

  10. The top cars of Cup can not expect the perceived lesser endowed cars to simply get out of their way. Those cars that are not that good today, may be one of the top cars in the near future. So this unwritten rule that cars that are not expected to place need to let the top cars race unimpeded amongst themselves is a Leona Helmsley kinda of rule.

    I kinda think Preece really arrived at Bristol. I have been waiting for him to assert himself, and he did it, he finally did it. I think we are going to see a different, racier Preece from here on.

  11. Just read on nascar site. Nascar to take a deeper dive into larson- preece contact.
    Stay tuned, might be some wing clipping here. I just know stewart was none to happy over “retaliation “. Again, hmmmmmm

  12. Fast Eddie says

    Dareal, fyi KB TItan racing is new this year. Anderson owned the team last year, which was when the sponsorship started. It amazes me that can be a major sponsor for a Cup team. In simple terms one of his companies is sponsoring another one of his companies. NICE!!

  13. I’m a little confused on the Hendrickscars . Com sponsorship issue on the 5.
    I remember it as, after Larson was suspended from the sport, and went through sensitivity training, Hendricks was the only one willing to pick Larson up. That was due, largely to the fact, owners did not want to touch Larson after the “controversy “, (damaged goods as it were) even as talented as he was. Hendricks had the “wherewithal “ to field a car for the full season, and sponsor through one of his companies. I have that wrong? Other deep pocket sponsors were stepping up? I missed that.

  14. Fast Eddie says

    Bobf, I think the first year there were sponsors for certain races, but most of it was

  15. Bobf that is how I remember the Hendrick cars sponsorship. No one would touch Larson after his video game racial slur. I was thinking we would start to see some additional sponsors on the side of the car but so far it hasn’t really materialized even with Larson’s incredible talent, winning a championship and consistently running near the front for one of the best teams. These sponsorships are millions of dollars and most corporations don’t want to take any risk when it comes to bad publicity from Larson’s past indiscretion. On the dirt circuit Larson seems to find sponsorship. Probably a lot less money and scrutiny there.

    I caught a Youtube video of a post race Ryan Preece interview. He didn’t come out and say he purposely wrecked Larson which is good. He essentially used the I am just a pavement racer trying to get around a dirt track and got into some lose stuff and drifted up the track. Unfortunately Larson happened to be up there at the time.. I am paraphrasing of course but that is the same pavement racer that was one of the fastest cars on dirt all weekend. He has been taken out so many times this year without any punishment for offending parties. He was just frustrated. I get it. Honestly, I thought Larson door slam was one of the lesser offenses against Preece from what i have seen this year. Hopefully, this little beef with Larson is done and doesn’t continue for multiple weeks. I wouldnt be surprised to see a fine coming Preece’s way. I hope Stewart doesn’t give up on Preece. The results certainly haven’t been good so far. If Preece wasn’t racing, I would have absolutely no reason to watch cup racing.

  16. Thanks CSG. Thats how I remember it as well. I only once saw, a one race different sponsor for Larson if I remember correctly, in the 5. Freightliner was on the car for 1 race, if memory serves me right (and that is suspect!) and I don’t remember the venue.
    As for Preece, yeah, I saw the same thing.
    Your comment on Stewart I think is spot on. Stewart’s comment, body language in the booth when Bowyer commented about “retaliation and frustration “ really seemed to me, to trigger a very negative reaction by Stewart. Just a feeling on my part. I am hoping he supports Preece in this. After all, Stewart never put anybody in the wall in the heat of the moment defending what he thought was right, correct? Yes, sarcasm Sheldon………

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