Byron the 1st repeat winner of 2022, but will we see another Sunday night in Bristol or a 1st timer? A deep look here

A little over a quarter of the way through the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season and currently half of the Playoff spots are spoken for as the series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt for the Food City Dirt Race (Sunday, April 17 at 7 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Seven different drivers have won this season securing their spots in the Playoffs.

William Byron snapped the different winners streak by snatching his second victory of the year last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. It was Byron’s first grandfather clock Cup trophy from the historic half-mile at Martinsville, his second of the 2022 season and fourth of his Cup career. Now the 24-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina heads to the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt track to keep the early season momentum going.

Following his win last weekend, Byron has jumped to third in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings just 12 points back from his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott as standings lead. In eight starts this season, Byron has put up two wins (Atlanta, Martinsville) and four top fives.

Last season on the Bristol dirt, Byron started eighth and finished sixth.  

AVONDALE, ARIZONA – MARCH 13: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 UniFirst Chevrolet, gives a thumbs up to fans during the red carpet prior to the Ruoff Mortgage 500 during at Phoenix Raceway on March 13, 2022 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

But, don’t forget the series points leader is also guaranteed a position in the Playoffs even without a win. Currently, that driver is Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate of Chase Elliott. The thing is, Elliott hasn’t won a race this year either.

There is a reason a winless driver is currently atop the NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings though, and it all boils down to consistency. No driver has a better average finish in the first eight races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season than Elliott (11.3) and that early consistency has him holding the points lead heading to Bristol.

The first eight races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced five points standings lead changes among five different drivers. Elliott currently holds just a three point lead over second place Ryan Blaney in the driver standings. Elliott has posted one top five and five top 10s this season.

Looking to the wild card track that is the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt, Elliott started from 26th and impressively raced his way up to a top-10 finish (10th).

That leaves just eight postseason spots still up for grabs with 18 races left in the regular season.

The seven drivers with wins this year are William Byron (two wins), Denny Hamlin, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Kyle Larson and Austin Cindric (each have one win). A winless Chase Elliott currently holds the series driver standings lead taking the eighth spot.

Bristol Dirt couldn’t have come any sooner for Team Penske’s Joey Logano as the defending winner of last season’s race on dirt is still looking for his first win of this season himself.

In eight starts this season, Logano has collected two top fives and four top 10s. If Logano gets a win this season, it will be his 11th consecutive season with a victory in the series.

Last year, Logano looked like a natural on the dirt at Bristol. He started 10th and methodically worked his way to the front, taking the lead on Lap 193. He would then hold on to lead the final 61 laps, even fending off a wild overtime restart to get the win. With the victory, Logano became the 77th different driver to win on a dirt surface in the NASCAR Cup Series and the only active driver to accomplish the feat.

Speaking of last year, that race was dominated by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. who led a race-high 126 of the schedule 253 laps (49.8%). The New Jersey native started fifth and won the first stage but ultimately fell to 19th at the finish. Now, still winless in 2022, Truex and the No. 19 team return to Bristol looking for some redemption on the dirt.

Last season, Truex competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt taking the win, his first in the series. With the win, Truex became the 36th of the 39 drivers all-time to win at least one race in all three of NASCAR’s national series. Truex is still looking for his first win of the season. Through eight races, he has accumulated one top five and four top 10s.

At the other end of the Playoff outlook are the Richard Childress Racing teammates Tyler Reddick (+15) in 15th and Austin Dillon (+10) in the 16th and final Playoff transfer position. Both RCR drivers are looking for their first win of 2022. Last season at Bristol Dirt, Reddick started 27th and raced his way up to a seventh-place finish and Dillon started ninth and finished 21st.

Just outside the Playoff cutoff is 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion and 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch in 17th with 10 points separating him from Dillon. Also, within striking distance of the Playoffs point cutoff are Petty GMS Motorsport’s driver Erik Jones and Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez. Last season both Suárez (fourth) and Jones (ninth) finished inside the top-10 at Bristol Dirt. Kurt Busch started 28th and managed to finish 16th.

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