Christopher Bell had every reason to celebrate after winning the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday night. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver did, of course, take some time to soak in the big win in victory lane. Still, the night in Bristol had a somber feel to it, considering the tragedy that had occurred a day earlier at a track just a few hours away.
On Saturday night, USAC driver Justin Owen was killed in a crash during qualifying for the AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship at Lawrenceburg Speedway. Owen, who had raced in sprint cars for more than a decade, went high into turn 3 and lost control of his car, causing him to slam into the wall at high speeds. His airborne car flipped several times before coming to a stop in the middle of the Indiana track. The Harrison, Ohio native later died from his injuries. He was 26.
A couple hours after seeing the checkered flag at Bristol, the 28-year-old Bell took to Twitter to dedicate his first win of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season to the late Owen.
This win is for fellow dirt racer Justin Owen. My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/IRjPYyls5g
— Christopher Bell (@CBellRacing) April 10, 2023
"This win is for fellow dirt racer Justin Owen," Bell wrote. "My sincere condolences go out to his family and friends."
Bell wasn't the only member of the NASCAR community to pay tribute to Owen. During the NASCAR Fox broadcast of the Bristol Cup race, longtime broadcaster Mike Joy informed viewers at home of Owen's tragic death.
"Some sad news to pass along in the dirt track and sprint car world" Joy said. "Last night at Lawrenceburg, Indiana Speedway, the defending track champion, Justin Owen, was qualifying his USAC sprint car which bicycled down the back straight-away, got into the wall, and then into a series of violent flips that he could not survive."
Chase Briscoe had just placed seventh in the Craftsman Truck Series at Bristol on Saturday night when he heard the news of Owen's fatal crash. Briscoe, who would go on to place fifth in the Bristol Cup race, had actually raced sprint cars with Owen in the past, which made the news all the more devastating.
Ended up 7th tonight banging the boards, had a lot of fun and appreciated the opportunity.
Post race I learned about the passing of Justin Owen, raced against Justin quite a bit in sprint cars. Thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. pic.twitter.com/losYQ36rU0
— Chase Briscoe (@ChaseBriscoe_14) April 9, 2023
"Raced against Justin quite a bit in sprint cars," Briscoe tweeted. "Thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."
Tony Stewart Racing, a USAC team owned by the NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time Cup champion, also paid tribute to Owen on Twitter.
"It's never easy to be reminded how quickly things happen in this sport or that we're not promised tomorrow," the race team tweeted. "Keeping the family, friends and fans of Justin Owen in our prayers. We're so sorry for your loss."
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