Bell crashes NASCAR playoff field with victory in New Hampshire


Loudon, New Hampshire (AP) — Christopher Bell’s crew chief tried to give him a bit of coaching — about 40 laps remaining in the race and some encouragement with victory and playoff spots at stake — and soon. I was basically told to shut up.

“He told me he was in control of it,” said crew chief Adam Stephens with a laugh, “and he obviously did.”

Bell later explained that he had so many laps left in the race that he didn’t have to remind him how far the No. 20 Toyota had to go to reach the finish line.

In addition, Bell already knew how to reach the winning lane on his favorite track.

Bell crashed the NASCAR playoffs, increasing pressure on the remaining unwinning drivers, winning the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday and becoming the 14th Cup Series winner of the season.

“I needed it right there,” said 27-year-old Bell.

Bell won the Xfinity series races in 2018, 2019 and 2021, took second place in last year’s cup race, and mastered the track over last week’s Atlanta Motor Speedway winner Chase Elliott. Did.

Bell is the 14th driver to win a spot in the 16 playoff fields. With six races remaining in the regular season, more than 16 drivers may win the race and the final playoff spot will be determined by points.

It’s another day’s worry for Bell.

“The car wasn’t very good when we started the race,” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “It was half-hearted. I had a hard time. Finally, they put him in the right direction.”

Bell chased Elliott late, leading Joe Gibbs Racing’s final 42 laps. His only other cup victory took place in the second race of the 2021 season of the Daytona Road Course.

Elliott was second in Hendrick Motorsport and Baba Wallace was third in 23XI Racing. Martin Truex Jr. dominated early, finishing in 4th place and Kevin Harvic completing the top five.

“I didn’t know what I was running at the end,” Wallace said. “I knew it was in the top five. But in the end I was able to take advantage of it just by managing the tires. I’m proud of everyone. Happy. Hell last month. So I’m glad I got the top five. “

Elliott, who had led 13 laps overall when he was caught by Bell, finished first or second in four consecutive victories.

“We were in a position to really end the race for people at this level if you had such a lead,” Elliott said. “Efforts on my part are inadequate.”

Bell led JGR to his fourth victory of the season and his twelfth victory in New Hampshire.

Bell was one of the drivers who would have had to worry about playoff opportunities for the rest of the summer. He entered the race 16th in the point ranking and 19th from the cut line. After finishing the top 10 five times in a row in May and June, Bell encountered a recent hiccup and finished only once more than 18th in the last four.

“If the race car is fast and you have the number one car, it’s very easy to go first as long as you’re at work,” Bell said. “At the end of that race I had the number one race car. Basically, the third stage of my car was the fastest, especially in the long run. I wanted to maximize it. I did my job. “

JGR, which supplies the pit crew to 23XI Racing, exchanged team members with Wallace’s crew earlier this month.

Bell’s primary concern on Sunday was trying to handle the £ 21 lobster awarded to the winner.

“Earlier this year, we felt like we were on the verge of victory,” Bell said. “I thought we were pretty far away for the last few weeks. Well, we’re here today.”

Bell still needs to work on expanding his New England fan club. Last season he presented the Xfinity checker flag to the only boy he saw on a grandstand wearing a bell T-shirt. Prior to Sunday’s race, Bell promised to win the checkered flag for a kid in a shirt at a sponsor-sponsored pre-race event.

“And I did,” he said.

TRUEX fade

Truex won the first two stages, leading 172 laps, then faded out due to insufficient pit stops and finished in 4th place. Truex dominated early from Paul and seemed ready to snap the unwinning drought during the season. If there is no win, Truex is in the playoff bubble. Ryan Blaney is third in the points ranking and Truex is fourth, but neither can win and miss the playoffs. This is the third time in the last 20 years (2002, 2003, 2011) and 14 winners have been won in the first 20 races.

Trading paint

Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon paid attention in the middle of the race and used their car as a battering ram. Dillon hit Keselowski at the backstretch door. Keselowski retaliated against Dillon on the passenger side of the car, slammed him, and kicked him out of the truck.

“We’ve done it a couple of times in the last two years. At one point I hit it really hard,” Dillon said. “I don’t like the way certain people compete with me.”


NASCAR’s Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway as the only stop this year. The track has long held two cup races each year, and Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch won the race last year on the doubleheader weekend.


Other AP Auto Racing: https: // and