BRISTOL, Tenn. - After leading the last 100 laps of the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell put the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry in victory lane for the first time in 2023, following a strong showing in Thunder Valley.
Bell, who is known for his extensive dirt racing background, took command of the race after the conclusion of the second stage. Playing the strategy game, crew chief Adam Stevens, made the call to stay out after finishing fourth in Stage 2. From there, despite five cautions occurring in the final stage, the three-time winner of the Chili Bowl Nationals held off the field to earn his fifth career NASCAR Cup Series win.
"Yeah, that was tough... those last, I don’t know, 70 laps or whatever it was, probably less than that, when we got on the top, was very tricky because the cushion was very unforgiving to run," Bell said. "If you made mistakes, you paid a really big price. The laps just felt like they were taking forever to tick by because it was so hard to get the car through the corner and not make a mistake. Yeah, it was very tough from my seat."
Although there was action happening throughout the field, there wasn't as much happening for the leaders, in terms of changing positions. During the 2023 Food City Dirt Race, only four drivers led while there were five total lead changes, with only two of those coming under green flag conditions.
Kyle Larson led all 75 laps in Stage 1 after starting from pole position. Tyler Reddick led 69 laps en route to a Stage 2 victory, but Kyle Busch got around Reddick once on Lap 134 to lead six laps before Reddick got back around him.
Reddick finished second, in the same position he came in last year's Food City Dirt Race. With this runner-up finish, Reddick not only earned his fourth top-five finish of the season, but he also became the only Cup driver to finish in the top-10 in all three Bristol Dirt events.
"It was a lot of fun honestly... really intense," Reddick said in a post-race interview about his battle with Bell. "Just hate it for everyone on this SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD. Just needed to be a little bit closer than I was.
"I think with two to go it would have been really bold to try and make that move work. Obviously, on the white flag coming into three and four, I was gonna see, but yeah, we'll never know if it [would've] worked."
Reddick, who was on fresher tires, stayed close to Bell towards the end and continued to make up ground. However, the race ended under caution after an incident between Daniel Suárez and Josh Berry collected Ross Chastain, who ended up stuck in the middle of the track as the leaders were making their way to the checkered flag on the final lap.
Other Race Facts
Kyle Larson and Ryan Preece were involved in multiple incidents with each another, which later ended Larson's day. Larson won Stage 1 and finished third in Stage 2. He finished 35th after the on-track feud with Preece as Larson got into the outside wall.
Preece went on to finish 24th.
Christopher Bell has finished six of the eight races in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season as the highest-finishing entry from Joe Gibbs Racing. In addition, Bell has also won the last four points-paying races for JGR. Bell also leads the Cup Series standings for the first time in his career.
Joey Logano, the winner of the inaugural Food City Dirt Race, finished third last season, won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Race at Bristol Dirt on Saturday, and finished last (37th-place) in this year's Cup race.
After spending the first two Bristol Dirt races never being outside of the top-15, Logano earned his fourth career last-place finish in Cup competition.
Nine drivers earned their season-best finishes, according to statistician Trey Ryan.
Christopher Bell (1st)
Austin Dillon (3rd)
Chase Briscoe (5th)
Justin Haley (6th)
Martin Truex Jr. (7th)
Todd Gilliland (8th)
Harrison Burton (15th)
JJ Yeley (20th)
Ty Dillon (21st)
Now, Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver this season to finish every race inside of the top-20.
Rookie Ty Gibbs is the only driver to finish the last four races inside of the top-10. Todd Gilliland and Gibbs are the only drivers to finish inside of the top-15 over the last four races.
Results from the 2023 Food City Dirt Race from Bristol Motor Speedway are listed below.
The 2023 GRID Ranking is the seventh year of the premier motorsport ranking in the world, and it was initially released on Sunday, April 2.
Drivers in the seven racing series participating in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) have earned GRID Ratings, which helped determine their seeding during Week 2 of the 2023 GRID Ranking.
The NASCAR Cup Series was the only racing series in the GRID Ranking to hold an event this past weekend. However, there are still no NASCAR Cup Series drivers inside the top-10 of the GRID Ranking.
With a win at Bristol, Christopher Bell jumped from 17th in the ranking to 11th with a new 15.30 rating.
23XI Racing's Tyler Reddick's second-place result moves him from 27th to 18th with a rating of 12.24.
The remaining Cup drivers in the GRID Ranking all come from Hendrick Motorsports. William Byron is 25th (10.80 rating), Kyle Larson is 31st (9.90 rating) and Alex Bowman is 34th (9.00 rating).
Week 2 of the 2023 GRID Ranking can be found here.
The next race on the calendar for the NASCAR Cup Series is the NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 16 on FS1, with the drivers scheduled to take the green flag shortly after 3 p.m. ET.
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