Christopher Bell wins in New Hampshire as NASCAR debuts new wet tires

Christopher Bell wins in New Hampshire as NASCAR debuts new wet tires

Christopher Bell went against all odds to win the chaotic and rain-delayed USA Today 301 NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire.

Christopher Bell dominated the NASCAR race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver battled relentlessly to secure the “broom” in Sunday’s rain interrupted USA Today 301.

The race which lasted six hours, including a two-hour rain delay saw the 29-year-old overcome Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe by 1.104 seconds in overtime and ended with the field using damp surface tires, marking the second time in NASCAR history that a points-paying race was run on the newly-developed wet weather tires.

It marked Bell’s second win in five career starts at New Hampshire. He is now second in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with eight races remaining in the regular season.

Bell’s 20-JGR Toyota led a race-high 149 of the 305 laps on Sunday just a day after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the 1.058-mile New England oval. Now, he stands as one of only four drivers with three victories in the NASCAR Cup Series this year.

“It was literally the tale of two different events,” Bell said after the race. “You never know how this thing is going to shake out whenever you change so many things like that and have adverse conditions.

“I personally love adverse conditions because you’re always trying to think outside the box. When we went back out [on wet weather tires after the red flag delay] I was feeling around and it felt like the normal Loudon groove was really really slippery.

“So I tried to just run down or up, but [crew chief] Adam [Lambert] really put the tune on this thing and it was running good. This is really cool!”

The event certainly marked uncharted territory for both the sport and the series. If there had been enough laps completed to be considered as a valid points event like in previous years, maybe the race would have simply been canceled when the rain started.

However, in favor of testing out the newly developed wet weather tires NASCAR decided to wait and try out the rain tires on a wet track. NASCAR officials stated they would have been forced to just cancel the race if the replacement tires hadn’t been set up.

“We’d have been done with 82 laps to go and instead it gave us a chance to go back to green,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer told reporters after the race.

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“Kudos to our drivers, our owners and especially [NASCAR CEO] Jim France for his vision.”

Undoubtedly, The last 86 laps of the race, which included the overtime saw several changes in competition as the cars ran on wet weather tires. Individuals who had earlier dropped out of the running, such as Briscoe and his SHR teammate Josh Berry, who finished in third place, surged to challenge Bell.

Some drivers struggled on the wet weather tires, including Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing, who was running in third during the red flag but ultimately finished in 24th place.

Ryan Blaney of Team Penske, who was running in second when the red flag came, ended up finishing 25th following a crash with Michael McDowell on the final laps before overtime. Fortunately, the latter managed to continue and finished 15th.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson finished fourth followed by Roush Fenway Keselowski’s Chris Buescher – another driver who dramatically moved up in the field following the red flag.

23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who was leading the race when the red flag came out, finished sixth, followed by JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Legacy Motor Club’s John Hunter Nemechek, JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. and Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain – notable comebacks for Truex and Chastain who were both involved in earlier caution periods.

The finish for Larson now brings him into a tie with Hendrick teammate Chase Elliott on top of the standings with Hamlin in third place, 40 points back. Elliott was involved in an accident just before the red flag and finished 18th.

With eight races remaining to set the 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field, there was substantial movement in the bottom half of the standings with drivers currently in Playoff position based on points not having scored a win yet.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano, who finished 32nd Sunday, moved into the final Playoff points position and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace dropped out of points eligibility after an accident with 35 laps left in regulation eliminated him from the race.

He finished 34th out of the 36 cars and is now 17th in the Playoff standings, one position below the cutoff.

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