Christopher Bell Becomes 14th Winner in Cup Series at New Hampshire

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New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH — July 17, 2022

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is the kind of track that can produce a surprise winner. A NASCAR Cup Series driver has started outside the top 20 and went on to win the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway 10 different times (20% of the total races).

New Hampshire is tied with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third-most winners starting outside the top-20 in the NASCAR Cup Series (with 10 each); behind only Daytona International Speedway with 12 and Richmond Raceway also with 12.

Last season’s winner, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola started from the 22nd position, and with 13 different winners this season, New Hampshire Motor Speedway could very well stir up some magic and produce a 14th.

Still Looking for a Win This Year

Eight winners from last season are still looking for their first victory this year – Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, and AJ Allmendinger. Of the eight, Brad Keselowski, a two-time winner at New Hampshire (2014, 2020), and Aric Almirola (2021) are the only former Magic Mile winners.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick heads to New Hampshire riding a 62-race winless streak that dates back to Bristol in 2020. The 46-year-old veteran is looking to return to his winning ways and lock himself into this season’s Playoffs.

Active Winners Wins Seasons
Kevin Harvick 4 2019, 2018, 2016, 2006
Denny Hamlin 3 2017, 2012, 2007
Kurt Busch 3 2008, 2004 sweep
Kyle Busch 3 2017, 2015, 2006
Brad Keselowski 2 2020, 2014
Joey Logano 2 2014, 2009
Aric Almirola 1 2021

 

“The flat-track stuff definitely has been good for us, and we’re going there (New Hampshire) knowing we’re going to have some options to move around the racetrack and be able to kind of hunt for a line that works for our Ford Mustang,” said Harvick.

Harvick is currently just outside the Playoff cutline, 19 points back from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell in the 16th and final postseason transfer position on points. In jeopardy is Harvick’s consecutive Playoff appearance streak of 12 straight seasons, currently the longest among active drivers. But New Hampshire has been one of Harvick’s better tracks. In 38 series starts, he managed to wrestle away four wins (2006, 2016, 2018, 2019), 13 top fives, and 22 top 10s. He finished sixth in this event last season.

Keselowski Needs a Win

One of the most interesting developments to watch over the next seven races is if RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski can pull out a win this regular season and put the Playoff bubble and drivers around it in a precarious position. Keselowski has won at least one race a season the last 11 seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series and though he has switched to a new team this year, one would expect the 2012 series champ to work his hardest to keep the streak alive.

With that said, if Keselowski wins from the 30th position in points, where he currently resides in the postseason outlook, he would then bounce Christopher Bell out of the Playoff transfer position and move Truex down to that spot drastically increasing points difference at the cutline. Keselowski finished third in this event last season and in total has made 21 series starts at New Hampshire posting two wins (2014, 2020), nine top fives, and 14 top 10s

NASCAR News This Week

23XI Racing announced this week the organization has signed current Richard Childress Racing driver Tyler Reddick to a contract starting in the 2024 season. Reddick will continue driving for the No. 8 RCR Chevrolet team this season and next before transitioning to 23XI Racing.

“I’m thrilled to have the chance to join this team and look forward to how I can contribute to the organization,” said Tyler Reddick. “23XI has accomplished a lot in the less than two full seasons they’ve been in the garage, and I can’t wait to be a part of that continued success. Until then, my focus remains on my current team, winning races and being competitive.”

Tyler Reddick is currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings this season. He has put up one win (Road America), two stage wins, five top fives, and seven top 10s.

As if that wasn’t enough, as teams were just getting set up for the race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon, Ty Dillon dropped a bomb on Twitter with a statement saying — after just 19 races together — he and Petty GMS “mutually agreed to go our separate ways” at the conclusion of 2022.

“So many things have happened this week,” Dillon said. “Obviously, I’m so focused on doing the best I can in the 42 this year and get all I can prove to people that I can win races in the Cup Series and that I’m one of the best 36 drivers in the series, which I know I am. But I’m a free agent, which is always exciting, you know, and it’s just a bridge to the next opportunity that I’m looking forward to taking advantage of, and I’m gonna have fun with it.”

“This week’s been tough dealing with all the news about leaving, but from here forward, I get to focus on what’s next. And also leaving it all out on the line knowing I’m not coming back, it’s kind of freeing in a sense to just go and give it all I have every weekend. And you know, I think it’s only going to be the best for me, and I wish the best for them in the future.”

Today’s Race

After a half-hour rain delay, the Ambetter 301 kicks off for 301 laps around the 1.058-mile oval, New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stages are set for 70/115/116 laps. the defending champion is Aric Almirola, he starts seventh today. Martin Truex Jr. sits on the pole for today’s race. Last week’s winner, Chase Elliott, joins Truex on the front row.

Ford comes into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire looking to run its win streak to five after Almirola went to victory lane last season.  Almirola’s win came on the heels of back-to-back-to-back wins by Brad Keselowski (2020) and Kevin Harvick (2018-19).

Stage One

At the drop of the green flag, Martin Truex Jr.(19) jumped to the lead. A slow start by Chase Elliott(9) allowed Bubba Wallace(23) to slip by into the second position.

Just four laps in a big wreck on the backstretch brought out an early caution flag. Justin Haley(31) and Ty Dillon(42) bumped coming off turn two. Haley drove off and Dillon spun out. The accident collected Josh Bilicki(77), Alex Bowman(48), and BJ McLeod(78), all four cars were taken to the garage with significant damage.

Truex pulled away from the pack and led every lap of Stage 1. Wallace, Kyle Larson(5), Elliott, and Kevin Harvick(4) made up the top 5. Harvick moved from the 10th starting position to fifth over the opening 70 laps.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER Points
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 23 Bubba Wallace 9
3 5 Kyle Larson 8
4 9 Chase Elliott 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 20 Christopher Bell 5
7 45 Kurt Busch 4
8 10 Aric Almirola* 3
9 24 William Byron 2
10 11 Denny Hamlin 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Truex held the top spot exiting the pits after Stage ending service stops. Harvick moved up three positions to sit next to Truex on the front row for the restart.

A lap in, Kyle Busch spun coming off turn four. Somehow the drivers behind him in the pack avoided contact. But, the yellow flag came out, which allowed Busch to come to pit road and replace flat-spotted tires.

Another crash occurred in turn one, as Corey LaJoie(7) had something break sending his race car into a spin. Michael McDowell(34) and Harrison Burton(21) were involved with LaJoie’s car suffering the worst damage.

Almost everyone came to pit road for fuel and some teams changed tires during the caution for the LaJoie incident. Joey Logano(22) was one of the cars to stay on the track and became the new leader after Truex led the first 96 laps.

Logano led for 25 laps with Truex recapturing the lead with what is clearly the fastest car on the track.

Spins by Ryan Blaney(12) and Chase Briscoe(14) allowed teams to prep for the run to the green and white checkered flag at the end of Stage Two. With 29 laps to go Truex led, followed by Logano, Harvick, Kurt Busch(45), and Austin Cindric(2).

With 23 to go, Kyle Busch spun unassisted for the second time today. After the first time around Busch had worked his way back to the 13th position when he spun again giving up all the track position gained.

During the caution, Austin Dillon(3) came up the track to express his dissatisfaction with Brad Keselowski(6) by giving the number six car a nudge in the side. Keselowski responded by driving down the track and putting a big dent in the right door of Dillon’s car. The move turned out to be a costly one for Keselowski as his left front tire went down after the contact.

On the restart, Truex again drove away from the pack. Quickly establishing a one-second lead with Harvick holding down second with 17 laps to go in Stage two.

Truex went back to back in the first two stages. If he can complete the sweep in the final segment of the race he will become the 14th different winner this year. It would throw the playoff battle into complete chaos as just two playoff spots would be left unfilled.

Martin Truex Jr. dominted the first two stages of Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER Points
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 4 Kevin Harvick* 9
3 9 Chase Elliott 8
4 22 Joey Logano* 7
5 5 Kyle Larson 6
6 45 Kurt Busch 5
7 1 Ross Chastain 4
8 24 William Byron 3
9 20 Christopher Bell 2
10 23 Bubba Wallace 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Shortly after the start of the Final stage, Todd Gilliland(38) spun in turn four and the caution came out. With 90 laps to go teams calculated they were in the fuel window to finish the race. Most of the field pitted, Kurt Busch(45), Burton, Briscoe, and Kyle Busch stayed out during the yellow to gain track position. Betting there will be another caution before the end of the race.

Truex was the first off pit road and Elliott jumped out ahead of Harvick as they formed up for the restart. For the first time today, Truex was forced to run in dirty air and his car was not as strong. He dropped to the 11th in the running order and will have to work his way back to the front in order to have a chance at the win.

Elliott and Christopher Bell(20) worked their way through traffic and the pair broke away for a three-second lead on the remainder of the pack. With 42 laps to go Bell took the lead, passing Elliott as they worked their way through lapped traffic.

With 40 to go, Truex had worked his way up to seventh. But he trailed the leader by nine seconds. When Bell got out front he began to pull away, Elliott had abused his rear tires trying to hold onto the top spot.

Kurt Busch pitted for tires and fuel with 32 laps to go. Having not gotten the needed caution they gambled on, Busch went a lap down in the process.

With 25 laps to go, Bell led followed by Elliott, Wallace, Harvick, and Truex. In an amazing turnaround, if Bell wins it will drop Truex onto the playoff bubble trailing Blaney by a large margin.

With 10 laps to go, Bell had opened a three-second lead on Elliott.

Instead of Truex, it was Christopher Bell who became the 14th different driver to win in 2022. With only two playoff spots available to qualify on points it is possible there will be 16 winners that take the “win and in” approach to qualify.

Christopher Bell becomes the 14th different winner in the Cup Series in 2022 with his victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Chase Elliott 734 In Win(3)
2 Ross Chastain 667 In Win(2)
3 Joey Logano* 582 In Win(2)
4 William Byron 536 In Win(2)
5 Denny Hamlin 441 In Win(2)
6 Kyle Larson 616 In Win
7 Kyle Busch 594 In Win
8 Christopher Bell 570 In Win
9 Alex Bowman 510 In Win
10 Austin Cindric* 489 In Win
11 Kurt Busch 485 In Win
12 Daniel Suarez 479 In Win
13 Tyler Reddick 474 In Win
14 Chase Briscoe* 465 In Win
15 Ryan Blaney* 656 +105
16 Martin Truex Jr. 619 +68
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Kevin Harvick* 551 -68
18 Aric Almirola* 490 -129
19 Erik Jones 465 -154
20 Austin Dillon 421 -198

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Kevin Harvick was the big loser as a result of Christopher Bell’s win. Dropping 68 points below the cut line, Harvick is now in a must-win situation to advance. The same can be said for Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, and Austin Dillon. Daniel Suarez (479 points), Tyler Reddick(474 points), and Chase Briscoe(465 points) are all winners in 2022 that could be in danger of falling out of the playoffs if more than 16 drivers post a win in the regular season.

Results of the Ambetter 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 20 Christopher Bell 301
2 9 Chase Elliott 5.767 301
3 23 Bubba Wallace 13.377 301
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. 13.646 301
5 4 Kevin Harvick 15.398 301
6 11 Denny Hamlin 19.040 301
7 6 Brad Keselowski 22.482 301
8 1 Ross Chastain 23.307 301
9 99 Daniel Suarez 23.982 301
10 45 Kurt Busch 24.638 301
11 24 William Byron 26.065 301
12 18 Kyle Busch 27.376 301
13 2 Austin Cindric 30.329 301
14 5 Kyle Larson -1 300
15 14 Chase Briscoe -1 300
16 16 AJ Allmendinger -1 300
17 17 Chris Buescher -1 300
18 12 Ryan Blaney -1 300
19 43 Erik Jones -1 300
20 31 Justin Haley -1 300
21 8 Tyler Reddick -1 300
22 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 300
23 3 Austin Dillon -1 300
24 22 Joey Logano -1 300
25 38 Todd Gilliland -1 300
26 21 Harrison Burton -1 300
27 41 Cole Custer -1 300
28 34 Michael McDowell -2 299
29 15 JJ Yeley -2 299
30 51 Cody Ware -4 297
31 10 Aric Almirola -19 282
32 7 Corey LaJoie -213 88
33 42 Ty Dillon -296 5
34 77 Josh Bilicki -296 5
35 48 Alex Bowman -297 4
36 78 BJ McLeod -297 4