Bristol Motor Speedway has been the scene of many dustups, shoves, punches, animated discussions, water bottle tosses and full-on team skirmishes following races that finished with bumping and banging on the track.
Last April one of Bristol’s wildest finishes took place on the dirt-covered version of the iconic half-mile and the resulting post-race exchange between the two involved drivers was nothing like fans at Bristol Motor Speedway had seen before. A host of racing journalists and historians could never remember a post-race scene like this developing at any NASCAR track, let alone the all-concrete high-banked monster that is Bristol Motor Speedway.
As race leader Tyler Reddick and determined pursuer Chase Briscoe rounded Turn 4 on the final lap of the 2022 Food City Dirt Race, Briscoe made his move for the lead and the victory. Briscoe took a wide slide that got underneath Reddick’s machine. Briscoe’s No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing machine made contact with Reddick’s No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, sending both cars careening off in different directions.
As the two drivers tried to put their machines back on track and salvage a decent finish, a light blue blur streaked by them both at the last instant. Kyle Busch became an opportunist in this thriller and stole the BMS Trophy and Gladiator Sword by a nose as the checkered flag waved. Ironically, Reddick had somehow managed to get his car turned around and was approaching the finish line just as Busch’s No. 18 machine passed at the last instant.
Every fan in the grandstands knew what was coming next. They had seen this post-race mayhem movie play out many times before at Bristol Motor Speedway.
At Bristol, these types of finishes mostly always transfer to a new sport: Boxing on pit road.
As he walked from his car to apologize to Reddick, Briscoe says he remembers thinking OK, I need to be ready to fight. He had his fists clinched already, anticipating the worst as he neared the California driver.
However, to his amazement and to every fan in the stadium’s shock, Reddick was laughing as Briscoe dropped his apology. The two drivers shook hands two times, discussed it and went their separate ways.
Wait, was this actually happening? At Bristol??
Noted journalist and racing historian David McGee said that was definitely the first time such a thrilling on-track incident produced a calm exchange on pit road between the two drivers. The moment was surreal.
“Tyler Reddick showed Chase Briscoe far more respect after the 2022 Food City Dirt Race than Briscoe showed him on the track,” McGee said. “I can’t imagine how disappointed Reddick had to be after Briscoe’s last lap slide job wound up spinning them both and kept Tyler from scoring his first Cup Series win. You can’t blame Briscoe for trying. It’s Bristol, it’s prime time and the checkers were in sight. He got close but just couldn’t make that move stick and, in the end, it wound up costing them both.”
Briscoe said he kept inching closer to Reddick’s bumper with each passing lap over the final 15. He knew he was going to be in position to challenge for the victory.
“I had to fight and claw to get back to second with about 12 to go and at that point just threw caution to the wind and started running as far as I could up on the wall and kind of surprised myself that I was able to catch Tyler as quickly as I did,” Briscoe said.
“I knew with three to go I was going to catch him on the last lap,” Briscoe added. “I remember taking the white flag and being on his bumper on the exit of Turns 1 and 2 then at that point your adrenaline is pumping, you know it’s the white flag and you have to do something to try and win the race.”
Briscoe said at that point his dirt racing instincts just took over.
“Going down that back straightway I had a good run going and I was in that dirt racing mode and you think you are in a sprint car or late model and you are on dirt, and in those cars you throw a slider,” Briscoe explained. “I didn’t realize until I went into that corner that a 3,400-pound stock car can’t pull off a slider like other dirt cars can. As soon as I was in the corner I knew I wasn’t going to clear him like I thought I was. I tried to stay off him. I didn’t want to just go in there and wreck him, that was never my intention, I wanted to clear him. I just held it wide open. I barely nicked him on the rear quarter-panel. I was hoping he was going to get back to the finish line before anyone else, but that obviously didn’t happen…Kyle beat him.”
Reddick said in his post-race interview that he took some of the blame for what happened. He said he allowed Briscoe to get too close at the end. He said if he could do it all over again, he would’ve done everything possible to keep his lead over Briscoe.
“I don’t think I did everything right, to be honest with you,” Reddick said after the race. “Briscoe was able to run me down back there. Just looking at it, I should have done a little bit better job of just — I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let him get that close. He ran me back down. Worked really hard to do that. I mean, you’re racing on dirt, going for the move on the final corner. It’s everything that as a driver you hope to battle for in his situation. Made it really exciting for the fans, so… It does suck, but we were able to finish second still. I’m being honest. I should have done a better job and pulled away so he wasn’t in range to try to make that move. That’s how I look at it.”
Briscoe couldn’t believe the aftermath was as civil as it was. He just knew it was going to be an all-out rumble between the two teams.
“I remember driving back to pit road pretty embarrassed and knowing I was about to get punched in the mouth,” Briscoe said. “We’ve all seen at Bristol when things like that happen there’s always a fight. I knew I needed to go down there and apologize to Tyler. I got down there and as soon as I got to Tyler he was smiling. That was a relief. We were able to talk it out and see eye to eye. Tyler’s crew was probably ready to kill me, but Tyler was cool with it. The first thing he said to me was I would’ve done the same thing if I was in your shoes.
“I think the fact that it happened to another dirt racer made all the difference… Any other guy would’ve been fired up. I remember the crowd going nuts and I was panicking about walking out of the tunnel and thinking the fans were going to be on me, but it was OK.”
Later in the summer the finish was voted one of the Top 10 Wildest Finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history.
“It is a crazy moment for sure,” Reddick said. “It is kinda cool and really stings all at the same time. It’s cool that it is recognized as one of the wildest finishes there. It was at night, so it’s like a Night Race I guess.”
“I can think of a lot of races that was nuts at Bristol, but it’s kinda cool to have one of your finishes considered as one of those top 10 races,” Briscoe said. “I’m sure the fans driving home were talking about it and 10 years from now they still will be talking about it. As a driver it’s always fun to be a part of a finish that is that exciting.”
To make sure you are at Bristol Motor Speedway to cheer on NASCAR’s best drivers as they create more exciting finishes at the 2023 Food City Dirt Race weekend, April 8-9, you can purchase tickets by visiting the BMS website. If you prefer to make your ticket purchases over the phone, you can also call the BMS Ticket Sales Center at (866) 415-4158. The race weekend also will include action on Saturday with Bush’s Beans Qualifying and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing in the Bristol Truck Race on Dirt.