NASCAR: Joey Logano becomes first new dirt winner since 1968

Joey Logano, Team Penske, Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

At Bristol Motor Speedway, Joey Logano won the first NASCAR Cup Series dirt race since 1970 to become the first first-time dirt winner in 53 years.

The long-anticipated Food City Dirt Race took place on Monday, March 29 after rain and flooding postponed it from Sunday, March 28. This race at Bristol Motor Speedway was the first NASCAR Cup Series dirt race since September 1970.

Nearly 51 years ago, Richard Petty won at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, a 0.5-mile (0.805-kilometer) oval track in Raleigh, North Carolina, in what was the 989th Cup Series event and the 489th on dirt.

Before Monday’s 253-lap race around the four-turn, 0.533-mile (0.858-kilometer) high-banked oval in Bristol, Tennessee, there had been 1,659 more Cup Series races contested since that event, and none of them took place on dirt.

It was Team Penske’s Joey Logano, whom not many people expected to be in the mix, who took the checkered flag to secure his 27th career victory.

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Naturally, the win was Logano’s first on dirt; the 30-year-old was still nearly 20 years from being born when Petty took the checkered flag for his 30th career dirt race victory and his 117th career Cup Series race victory over five decades ago.

And as long as it had been since the most recent Cup Series dirt race, it had been even longer since a driver secured his first Cup Series dirt race victory like Logano did on Monday afternoon/evening.

In April 1968 at Columbia Speedway, another 0.5-mile (0.805-kilometer) oval track in Cayce, South Carolina, it was Bobby Isaac who secured his first career Cup Series dirt victory, which was the second of what ended up being 37 wins for him at the sport’s top level.

A total of 12 dirt races were contested from then until prior to this weekend, and none were won by a driver who had never previously won on dirt. In fact, Isaac went on to win six of those 12 races.

Logano won Monday’s race by 0.554 seconds over JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in second place.

Stenhouse was considered a dark horse to win the race as a result of his dirt racing experience. He entered the race with a top finish of second place at Talladega Superspeedway last June since he secured his second and most recent victory at Daytona International Speedway in July 2017.

Logano, who won stage two, led 61 of the race’s 253 laps and was one of five leaders in a race that saw only five lead changes, the lowest total since the race at Martinsville Speedway saw only three in October 2019.

Daniel Suarez delivered Trackhouse Racing Team their best ever finish with a fourth place result after leading 58 laps, bettering their previous best of 15th at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month, despite the fact that he effectively had no dirt racing experience.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who won the Truck Series race at the track just hours beforehand in what was his first official dirt start, faded to 19th place after restarting in third with two laps to go in overtime. He won stage one and led a race-high 126 laps.

The race’s only other leaders were Joe Gibbs Racings teammates Denny Hamlin (finished in third place, led one lap) and Kyle Busch (finished in 17th, led seven laps).

The Cup Series is set to return to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 18 for the round of 16 finale, the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, on the paved track. This race is set to be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. But the dirt is set to return next spring, it was confirmed during Monday’s event.

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NASCAR has off for Easter this upcoming weekend, but action is scheduled to return with another short track race on Saturday, April 10, the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500. This race is set to be broadcast live from Martinsville Speedway on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.