Bell wins New Hampshire Cup race earning a spot in the playoffs

Bell wins New Hampshire Cup race earning a spot in the playoffs

Christopher Bell took one of the 16 spots in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Bell led the Ambetter 301’s final 42 laps after taking the lead from Chase Elliott and despite making pit stops during a lap 205 caution, the two had fresher tyres, as did the majority of the leaders, and they easily passed the pack. After taking the lead, Bell pulled ahead of Elliott by more than five seconds.

The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing crew, led by Bell, is the 14th different team to take home a victory. He moves from being on the playoff bubble to perhaps securing a postseason spot.

Bell lost four tyres during the 97th and final caution period. After working hard to overtake Kurt Busch, the Norman, Oklahoma native manoeuvred his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into position to close the gap on Elliott, the race’s early leader.

In his third season with JGR, Bell easily defeated Elliott, who was aiming for a fourth Cup victory in 2022, and flew away to win by almost six seconds for his second triumph in 92 career starts. His maiden victory came on February 21, 2021, at the Daytona road course.

“That one was much-needed right there,” Bell said after his win. “I’ll tell you what that was a hell of a race from my viewpoint. That was so much fun racing with the No. 45 [Kurt Busch], the No. 22 [Joey Logano], and the No. 9 [Elliott]. We were all running different lines. That was a blast.”

“I’m just so happy; so happy to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing, all our partners on this No. 20 car. It’s good to get Rheem back in victory lane.”

This year, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been among the fastest in the field, but up until today, he had not been able to cross the finish line in first place.

“Winning Cup races is hard. Just seems like we’ve been close then we had fallen off a little bit last week,” he added. “I was talking to my best friend and I told him, earlier in the year I felt like we were right on the verge of winning. Then the last couple of weeks I felt like we were pretty far away. But here we are today.”

Elliott led 13 laps before coming in second. Third-place finisher Bubba Wallace came in ahead of pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. and fifth-place finisher Kevin Harvick. With a third-place finish on Sunday, Bubba Wallace achieved his best result of the year.

“Proud of the team, proud of myself, and proud of everybody at the shop,” Wallace said. “It’s been hell for me the last month so good to come out with a top-five. This sport humbles you so there’s really no surprises. Have to keep the task at hand and be mindful of your surroundings and do your job.”

Truex dominated both stages of the race and led 172 laps, setting a new record, however he was forced to run on two tyres after Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Cole Custer continued to race after the final caution. Truex was able to regain position after dropping to 11th and complaining that his Toyota wouldn’t move. He then moved up into the top five.

At the end, he had driven 160 of the opening 185 laps. In the first two stages, Logano was one of a select group of drivers who stayed outside when Truex led the leaders down pit road. This was the only time the lead changed.

The rest of the top ten drivers were Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, and Kurt Busch. After spinning twice by himself, Kyle Busch placed 12th. Both spins occurred off turns, with the first occurring on lap 78 and the second occurring on lap 163. Busch dodged the encounter both times.

The top 12 included all six Toyota drivers as seven drivers shared eight lead changes and nine cautions on Sunday afternoon.

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