Christopher Bell claims victory in rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600

Christopher Bell claims victory in rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600

Christopher Bell won Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Speedway that was cut short by rain and lightning after 249 of 400 scheduled laps.

Christopher Bell claimed victory in the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday at Charlotte Speedway after a lightning delay that resulted in a heavy downpour that prompted NASCAR to call off the race after 249 of the 400 laps were completed.

The 14th race of the NASCAR Cup Series season saw the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota start third, lead a race-high 90 laps, and win the second stage.

The race during Memorial Day weekend came down to a decisive lap when Bell managed to hold off Darlington winner Brad Keselowski over a 10-lap stretch following a caution for Corey Lajoie’s spin in Turn 2 on lap 229.

Bell had been pursued by Brad Keselowski during the brief green flag run, and it was obvious that Keselowski might have had the best car at the time, but was running out of time and didn’t have track position.

The two were side by side at the front of the field on the subsequent lap 236 restart and Bell came out on top establishing a lead of almost six car lengths before NASCAR issued the seventh caution due to lightning in the area. Heavy rain followed the lightning, and although NASCAR made an effort to dry the track as soon as the downpour stopped, high humidity made it impossible to do so on time.

Bell went on to win his second race of the year, his first on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval, and his eighth overall. The Oklahoma native had finished below the top 10 in five of his previous six races, so the victory was a welcome change.

“Man, it feels so good—to win or lose—just to have a great race to go off of,” Bell said. “A race where we led laps. We were able to pass cars.

“We lost the lead at times and were able to drive back to the lead. We had great pit stops. It was a team effort, and it was amazing to have a good race. Hopefully, this is something we can build on and get back to being more consistent.

“I got booed out of the place,” Bell said of his Victory Lane experience, a reflection of just how frustrated the remaining fans were to having the race called short with a track that appeared to be three quarters of the way dry.

“I never in a million years thought that I was going to be winning that race on a rain-shortened event after they didn’t call it whenever the rain stopped. I thought for sure we’d be completing the event.”

Meanwhile, Keselowski believed he had the fastest car as he finished second for the third time this season.

“We just didn’t have time for it to play out,” said the driver of the No. 2 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford. “I think we had more speed than him[Bell], but there was a pretty big air advantage that he had.

“As laps would go on, the aero grip gets displaced by the mechanical grip, and then we could take him. But the leader, he was probably — I feel like the 20 car was the second-best car today, but it was still the second-best car.

“So, to be able to displace him, we needed him to fall off, and that’s just not going to happen with laps and catching the back of the pack, and we just didn’t get that.”

Stage 1 winner William Byron ran third behind Bell and Keselowski, with Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Pole winner Ty Gibbs finished sixth after leading 74 laps, including the first 42 of the race. Chase Elliott finished seventh, followed by Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman and Josh Berry.

The race was red-flagged as soon as Kyle Larson pulled into Charlotte Motor Speedway to take over the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson was aiming to become the first driver since Tony Stewart to complete all 1,100 laps as part of the Indianapolis 500 – Coca-Cola 600 double but poor Indianapolis weather immediately put an end to his intentions.

Larson was wheeled off the track after finishing 18th at the Indianapolis 500 and after two helicopter trips and a plane later, he arrived at Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval. He hurried to his pit stall, put on his helmet, and got into his fire suit before a heavy downpour abruptly stopped the race.

According NASCAR rules, Larson must start every race in order to be eligible to compete in the playoffs. However, Hendrick Motorsports can request an exception to the rule by submitting a waiver.

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