Martin Truex Jr. captures the NASCAR Truck Series dirt race at Bristol 

Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his first ever truck series win. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his first ever truck series win. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Ted Fleming
Modified 30 Mar 2021

It took three days, but NASCAR finally defeated Mother Nature. A couple of minutes past noon on Monday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series received the green flag, and the first dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway got underway. Sunday’s deluge had forced NASCAR to call everything off due to safety concerns.

No one knew what to expect in the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt racing on the Tennessee red clay, and it was Martin Truex Jr. who took the checkered flag after 150 laps. He became the first NASCAR dirt winner since Stewart Friesen at Eldora Speedway On Aug. 1, 2019, in the process.

Ben Rhodes, Raphael Lessard, Todd Gilliland, Chase Briscoe, Grant Enfinger, Zane Smith, Parker Kligerman, Austin Hill, and Austin Wayne Self rounded out the top ten.

Truex was in a truck for the first time since Jun. 17, 2006, and only for the third time in his career. It gave Kyle Busch Motorsports its third straight Camping World Truck Series win. At 40, Truex also became the oldest first-time national series winner since Michael Waltrip won in 2011.

Only one other NASCAR Cup Series driver landed in the top ten. Briscoe finished P4, although Bubba Wallace was competitive at the end with a P11.

How the NASCAR Pinty’s truck race on dirt played out

There was one noticeable difference between this race and others on the NASCAR circuit. Following cautions, trucks lined up according to their positions, like it used to be, because there was no ‘choose rule’ in effect.

The first on-track incident was on Lap 34 with Chandler Smith bumped into a spin by Austin Wayne Self. He would have been in good shape until Tyler Ankrum ran into him. With one lap left in the first stage, Martin Truex Jr. edged Sheldon Creed for the top spot. He was the only Cup driver in the top ten. Others from the Cup were Chase Briscoe (P11), Kevin Harvick (P17), Bubba Wallace (P19), Daniel Suarez (P23), and Kyle Larson (P25).

NASCAR red-flagged the race to do some additional grooming of the track while crews worked to clean trucks' grills and windshields.

In the second stage, one major incident saw NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader John Hunter Nemechek taken out. Matt Crafton bumped Nemechek, sending him into a spin, and while he was against the wall, Derek Kraus, who had nowhere to go, slammed into him. Both trucks were destroyed.

For someone who has not been in a truck for many years, Truex dominated the second stage by more than a second, giving him back-to-back green-white checkers. Ben Rhodes was the first series regular in second. Chase Briscoe was P4, the only other NASCAR Cup Series driver in the top ten. Harvick (P15), Wallace (P16), Larson (P18), and Suarez (P23) were the other finishers.

Red flag number three waved at Lap 100. Kyle Larson didn’t see Mike Marlar’s truck and ran into the back of him. That wasn’t the end for Larson because Danny Bohn couldn’t avoid the No. 44 Silverado hitting his right side door. Brett Moffitt spun as well but was able to continue.

As Truex was once again pulling away from the field, Johnny Sauter t-boned Chandler Smith after spinning toward the inside wall. Despite the damage to his front end, Sauter got some quick work done by his crew to send him back out on the track. It turned out his truck was too damaged to continue. At the restart, there were just 25 laps to go, and Truex took command once again.

So much got going green the rest of the way because Andrew Gordon did a 360 and backed into the safety barrels before pit row on the frontstretch. His back end was entirely off the ground, forcing NASCAR to throw yet another red flag with 17-to go. Surprisingly, there were just six different leaders to this point and only 11 lead changes. There were a dozen laps and six miles left at the restart.

Truex showed his early performance was no fluke as he pulled out to more than a one-second lead on his way to victory.

Stewart Friesen and his wife, Jessica, were trying to make the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt, but because rain canceled qualifying heat races, Jessica did not make the field. She watched from the stands, hooked in via radio as Stewart’s second spotter.

Published 30 Mar 2021
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