NASCAR Rundown: Bell best on dirt, short track days continue into Martinsville

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The third annual Bristol Dirt Race brought more dirt excitement, and cautions flags. In the end, it was dirt ringer Christopher Bell for Joe Gibbs Racing that took the checkered flag for his first win of the season.

Bell’s win made it back-to-back wins in the Bristol Dirt Race for JGR after Kyle Busch took the win last year for the team before moving on.

“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. If you made mistakes, you paid a really big price,” Bell said in the media center after the race.

The talk leading up to the race was how the dirt ringers, or guys who grew up racing on dirt, would stack up against the drivers who came up on the asphalt circuits. The right idea would be the dirt ringers would have more success at the track, but that had not been the case through the first two races.

However, the dirt ringers flipped the script this year with drivers like Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and the winner Bell running strong all night.

With noncompetitive pit stops at the stage breaks and that being the only time drivers were allowed to pit, the gamble to stay out or come to pit road for tires was insignificant, but not completely worthless.

Bell, along with other drivers back in the pack, stayed out on the last stage break to earn some much-needed track position. That gamble, if there was one, gave them clearer track and with the caution laps was able to boost them toward the top of the leaderboard for the remainder of the race.

Bristol did not go on without its fair share of drama as Ryan Preece and Larson came together while both were running in the top 10. Preece came out with the raw end of the deal, and dropped back quickly. The Strewart-Haas Racing driver did not forget about that, and on the next incident of close racing with Larson put the No. 5 car in the wall and ended his race.

The NASCAR Cup Series stays on the short tracks as it travels to the hills of Virginia for the NOCO 400 at Martinsville Speedway on April 16 at 2 p.m.


NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

*denotes race win

  1. William Byron **
  2. Christopher Bell
  3. Kyle Larson *
  4. Tyler Reddick *
  5. Kyle Busch *
  6. Joey Logano *
  7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. *
  8. Ross Chastain +86
  9. Kevin Harvick +73
  10. Martin Truex Jr. +50
  11. Brad Keselowski +34
  12. Ryan Blaney +29
  13. Alex Bowman +29
  14. Denny Hamlin +21
  15. Austin Cindric +11
  16. Chris Buescher +1
  17. Michael McDowell -1
  18. Ty Gibbs -9
  19. Daniel Suarez -13
  20. Chase Briscoe -20



The Starting Grid

NOCO 400

Where: Martinsville Speedway is a 0.526-mile paper-clip shaped oval with 12 degrees of banking in Ridgeway, Virginia.

When: April 16 at 2 p.m.

Stages: 80-100-220 (400 laps, 210 miles)

Last Year’s Winner: William Byron

Also This Week: The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Martinsville Speedway for the Before You Dig 250 on April 15 at 6:30 p.m. Martinsville is also hosting the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the Long John Silver’s 200 on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. in a trifecta weekend.

A Note: Opened in 1947, Martinsville Speedway quickly become one of the more iconic short tracks in the country. Each race, the winner receives a custom grandfather clock as their trophy as a nod to Martinsville furniture industry. Richard Petty owns the most clocks in NASCAR history having won 15 times at the track.