BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch passed the spinning cars of Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe to steal his first Cup victory of the season Sunday night at slippery, wet and dirt-covered Bristol Motor Speedway.
Reddick was chasing his first career Cup win, leading 99 of the 250 laps and controlling the race from the final restart with 24 laps remaining. But lap traffic allowed Briscoe to get close to Reddick and timed his move to win on lap three, when Briscoe tried to slide past Reddick on the inside.
The move backfired and both cars spun out of control and Busch, who was running third, simply slid for his first win.
“We have one, you know?” Bush said. “No matter how you get them, it’s all about getting them.”
Busch won for the ninth time in the Cup Series at Bristol — the first time in two dirt races — and was booed by a handful of fans who waited for two rain delays that pushed the first Easter Sunday race since 1989 to nearly four hours. .
“I mean, man, I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now,” Busch said, referring to the 1999 race in which Earnhardt was booed for running Terry Labonte out of the way to win. “This is amazing. I didn’t do anything.”
Reddick finished second and blamed himself for not holding off Briscoe. Briscoe went from two laps from victory to 22nd and immediately found Reddick on pit road to apologize.
“I was going to get out, I think, either way,” Briscoe said. “I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know. I’m sorry. I wish you had won.”
Reddick was understanding and admitted that he should have been more defensive.
“I don’t think he did everything right,” Reddick said. “Briscoe was able to get me back there. He should have done a little better job, just, I don’t know, shouldn’t have let it get that close. He got me back. He worked really hard to do that.
“I mean, you’re running on dirt, looking for the movement in the last corner. It’s everything that as a driver you hope to fight for in his situation. He made it really exciting for the fans. He should have done a better job and he walked away so he didn’t was in range to try to make that move.”
Rain had stopped the race for the second time moments before the race was supposed to turn green with 30 laps remaining.
“It’s slippery,” Busch, who was running second as rain pounded the track, said of the conditions.
From inside his cockpit, Reddick knew he had his work cut out for him if he wanted to win.
“One of the best in stock car racing, Kyle Busch, will definitely win me over,” Reddick said from inside his Chevrolet.
But Briscoe outplayed Busch when the rain finally stopped and it was Briscoe who ruined Reddick’s trip to victory lane.
The race was NASCAR’s second attempt to run a Cup race on dirt and turned into a wet and muddy mystery when rain stopped the race and most of the drivers seemed clueless about the rules.
Bristol poured more than 2,300 truckloads of Tennessee red clay into its beloved 0.533-mile concrete bullring to help NASCAR add variety to the schedule at a time when the stock car series is undergoing sweeping changes. Fox Sports then convinced NASCAR to take television prime time on Easter Sunday, the first time since NASCAR’s inception in 1949 that the Cup Series deliberately chose the date.
NASCAR had held 10 previous Cup races on Easter Sunday in its history, but all due to weather-related rescheduling. This purposeful event was designed to dominate a family-gathered television audience the way the NFL and NBA do on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
What the new audience saw was a lot of mid-race confusion because few drivers seemed to understand the rules during the first stop. Some drivers pitted, presumably because their teams knew that scoring stopped under the red flag and would not resume until the race turned green.
Busch was one of many drivers who didn’t pit, perhaps because they assumed they would move up the running order. So it was Busch who had his car out front when NASCAR stopped all activity, but Briscoe, who had pitted, was scored as the leader.
Denny Hamlin, who had already been eliminated from the race, was watching Fox Sports and saw what he claimed was an explanation of the rules that went on for over a minute.
“What’s wrong with this picture?” Hamlin wrote on Twitter. “As a fan sitting on my butt right now watching, it’s hard to take this seriously.”
Carson Hocevar, the runner-up in Saturday night’s Truck Series race, posted a meme hinting that NASCAR was making up the rules as they went along. In reality, NASCAR made it clear in its pre-race rules video that scoring would stop at the end of the stage and would not resume until the race was green again.
The confusion up and down pit road indicated that few had a clear understanding of the procedures, which at Bristol differed from all other Cup races. NASCAR held a mandatory pre-race drivers’ meeting before the pandemic in which the rules were discussed; it has since been replaced by a video.
The race resumed, with Briscoe in the lead, with the entire third stage still to go.