Christopher Bell Wins at Homestead-Miami, Locks Into Championship Four

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Homestead-Miami Speedway, Homestead, FL — October 22, 2023

With two races left in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of Eight, the series stops at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the 4EVER 400 Presented by MOBIL 1. The remaining postseason contenders look to solidify their positions in the standings prior to the cutoff race at Martinsville Speedway next Sunday.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts +/- Cutoff
1 Kyle Larson (P) 4,084 4 7 24 In On Wins
2 William Byron (P) 4,077 6 8 41 9
3 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4,070 3 6 36 2
4 Denny Hamlin (P) 4,070 3 7 32 2
5 Christopher Bell (P) 4,068 1 4 16 -2
6 Tyler Reddick (P) 4,054 2 6 16 -16
7 Ryan Blaney (P) 4,053 2 4 14 -17
8 Chris Buescher (P) 4,047 3 1 21 -23

Drivers Below the Round of Eight Cut Line

Only Kyle Larson is assured a spot in the Championship Four final at Phoenix Raceway. Even the 23-point deficit of Chris Buescher is not insurmountable with some luck.

Ryan Blaney Disqualification

Ryan Blaney faced a scare this past week when it was announced his Team Penske Ford Mustang was disqualified after the Las Vegas race for an issue with the shock absorbers. The loss of points would have placed Blaney 56 points below the cut line.

Fortunately for the team, the disqualification was rescinded by NASCAR when it was determined an inspection error occurred.

Blaney was asked about the situation during a media visit at the track on Friday.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOU OF BEING 56 POINTS OUT TO BEING UNDER 20 POINTS OUT?

“If you are 56 points out, you have to win a race. 17, you can do it on points, but it is going to be hard. I still think you probably have to win one of these things unless some guys have problems. You just never know. Here you can have problems. Running the wall, you can break some stuff pretty easy. You just go race, and do the best you can. You try to run up toward the front. I thought last week was the best mile-and-a-half speed we have had since Charlotte, so that was encouraging. Hopefully, we can keep building on that. It is a little better when you are a little closer in points.”

Who Is Favored

A total of 16 different NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five different drivers have won more than once at the 1.5-mile track. Seven of the 16 NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway are active this weekend. Four of those drivers are current playoff contenders.

Active Race Winners (7) Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin(P) 3 2020, ’13, ’09
Kyle Busch 2 2019, ’15
Joey Logano 1 2018
Kevin Harvick 1 2014
Kyle Larson(P) 1 2022
Martin Truex Jr(P) 1 2017
William Byron(P) 1 2021

(P) 2023 Cup Series Playoff Drivers

Today’s Race

Back-to-back races on a 1.5-mile track have the same schedule for Stages 80/85/102 laps. Kyle Larson is the defending champion of the race. He starts in the fifth position today. Martin Truex Jr. sits on the pole with Bubba Wallace next to him in the front row.

The remaining six playoff drivers qualified as follows.

3.  Tyler Reddick

7.  William Byron

10. Ryan Blaney

11. Denny Hamlin

13. Christopher Bell

17. Chris Buescher

Stage One

Martin Truex Jr.(19) and Bubba Wallace(23) fought for the lead over the first four laps until Wallace prevailed, and Brad Keselowski(6) joined the battle for the lead on Truex’s bumper. With 12 laps on the board, Truex made the pass for the top spot. Wallace, Keselowski, William Byron(24), and Kyle Larson(5) were all within one second of the leader.

Byron moved to the front on lap 20, and still, the top five were virtually nose to tail, with Tyler Reddick(45) replacing Wallace in the front group. Tire fall-off is huge at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Teams will have to make decisions on the timing of pit stops and how that will impact their track position.

Kyle Busch(8) was the first to pit on lap 31, and most of the field followed in the next few laps. After all teams had pitted, the front of the pack changed its makeup. Keselowski led, with Larson, Byron, Ryan Blaney(12), and Truex making up the top five. The interval also stretched out to over seven seconds from first to fifth.

On Lap 54, Larson took over the lead. Larson locked himself into the Championship Four last week with his win at Las Vegas. A repeat would increase the emphasis on gaining as many points as possible for the remaining seven drivers.

With 16 laps to go in Stage One, Larson put playoff driver Chris Buescher(17) a lap down, dropping the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing driver to the bottom of the playoff eight standings.

With four laps to go in the Stage, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had a problem with the right rear of the car. It appeared he may have broken the toe-link in a brush with the outside wall. Spinning out of control, the caution came out, ending the Stage under the yellow flag.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 5 Kyle Larson(P) 10
2 6 Brad Keselowski* 9
3 12 Ryan Blaney (P) * 8
4 24 William Byron (P) 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 6
6 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 5
7 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 4
8 3 Austin Dillon 3
9 20 Christopher Bell (P) 2
10 54 Ty Gibbs 1

(P) Playoff Drivers  *Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Keselowski and Larson led the field back to the green to start Stage Two. Larson quickly established himself in the top spot as drivers raced three wide behind the leaders.

When positions settled out after the restart, Larson, Byron, Keselowski, Truex, and Blaney were the top five.

As is often seen at Homestead-Miami, the leaders are all running at the top of the race track, inches from the outside wall. It takes a car with an exceptional handling package to run lower grooves and maintain or improve their position.

The leaders began making green flag pit stops 36 laps into the second Stage. Hamlin was one of the last of the leaders to pit in the first Stage, and he repeated that in Stage Two, pitting on lap 45.

After cycling through their service stops, Larson returned to the lead, followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Byron, and Truex.

Larson built the advantage between himself and the second-place car of Ryan Blaney. Blaney and Byron passed Keselowski as the laps wound down in Stage Two, and the tires began to go away.

Christopher Bell was facing the possibility of going a lap down as he began to fade back into the pack as the race moved closer to the end of Stage Two. With three laps to go, Blaney passed Larson for the lead. A lap later, Byron also passed his teammate as the tires on Larson’s car faded badly.

Bell managed to remain on the lead lap as the Stage came to an end.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 12 Ryan Blaney (P)* 10
2 24 William Byron (P) 9
3 5 Kyle Larson (P) 8
4 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 7
5 6 Brad Keselowski* 6
6 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 5
7 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 4
8 54 Ty Gibbs 3
9 3 Austin Dillon 2
10 22 Joey Logano* 1

(P) Playoff Drivers  *Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Blaney and Byron occupy the front row for the restart. Three and four wide racing mark the rows behind the leaders when the green flag waves.

Restarts create chaos at Homestead-Miami Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Blaney outruns Byron to secure the top spot, with Byron, Hamlin, Keselowski, and Larson rounding out the top five.

Hamlin took over the second spot and began to pressure Blaney for the lead. The additional laps of the Final Stage could be a determining factor depending on the strategy the teams employ.

After almost going a lap down in Stage Two, Christopher Bell was back in the top ten at the 74 laps to go mark. With 73 to go, Larson passed Hamlin for second and began to cut Blaney’s lead interval.

Brad Keselowski was the first of the leaders to pit with 57 laps to go. A lap later, both Blaney and Larson headed to pit road. Blaney slowed faster, and Larson could not keep his car under control, tapping Blaney in the left rear. Larson, carrying too much speed, crashed into the sand barrels that protect the pit road wall that separates the track from the pit lane doing significant damage to the right front of his car. With debris scattered everywhere, NASCAR was forced to bring out the caution flag, and then the red flag halted the race.

The cars were stopped on the backstretch while track crews worked to clean up the mess. The damage to Larson’s car forced him to the garage and out of the race. Blaney will be the leader of the race when it resumes, as the other cars that remained on the track will have to pit.

Hamlin was the first car off pit road. He restarted next to Blaney with 46 laps to go. Byron and Kevin Harvick(4) start on the second row.

The intensity was sure to pick up with the laps getting short. Before they could complete a green flag lap, cars began spinning on the backstretch. Chastain, John Hunter Nemechek(42), and JJ Yelley(15) were involved and unable to continue racing after suffering damage to their race cars.

The Finish

Restarting with 38 laps to go, Hamlin and Blaney started on the front row. But it was Christopher Bell(20) going three wide to pass both drivers for the lead. Byron followed Bell past while Blaney and Hamlin continued to run side-by-side.

Hamlin had something break on the right front of his car coming down the front stretch, and he slammed into the turn-one wall. Unable to steer, Hamlin parked the car on the pit road and climbed out. The tow truck had to be called to pull the #11 car back to the garage.

At virtually the same time, Truex’s car began to blow smoke out of the exhaust. He came to pit road, where the crew deemed it an engine failure, and another playoff driver was out.

Martin Truex Jr.’s car is pushed behind the wall after the engine failed / NASCAR Photo

All the leaders made pit stops, and William Byron was first off the pit road, followed by Blaney, Bell, and Harvick. The race restarted with 25 laps to go, and Byron pulled away from Blaney. Bell moved to second and began to track down the leader.

With 15 laps to go, Bell pulled beside Byron and made the pass for the lead. Blaney began to track down the two leaders, and with ten laps to go, Blaney was on the rear bumper of Byron.

Christopher Bell(20) and William Byron race at Homestead-Miami Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Blaney made the pass, and with seven laps to go, he trailed Bell by a second and a half. Bell was able to hold off the late charge by Blaney and, with the win, locked himself into the Championship Four with Larson.

Playoff Standings

POS CAR DRIVER STATUS
1 20 Christopher Bell In Win
2 5 Kyle Larson In Win
3 24 William Byron +30
4 12 Ryan Blaney* +10
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
5 45 Tyler Reddick -10
6 19 Martin Truex Jr. -17
7 11 Denny Hamlin -17
8 17 Chris Buescher* -43

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson are locked into the Championship Four. William Byron is a virtual lock as well, with a 30-point advantage over Tyler Reddick, the first driver below the cut line.

Chris Buescher goes to Martinsville in a must-win situation. Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., and Denny Hamlin are going to need some bad luck to befall Ryan Blaney if they are to advance.

Results of the 4EVER 400 Presented by MOBIL 1 from Homestead-Miami Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER LAPS
1 20 Christopher Bell 267
2 12 Ryan Blaney 267
3 45 Tyler Reddick 267
4 24 William Byron 267
5 16 AJ Allmendinger 267
6 23 Bubba Wallace 267
7 54 Ty Gibbs 267
8 22 Joey Logano 267
9 10 Aric Almirola 267
10 3 Austin Dillon 267
11 4 Kevin Harvick 267
12 2 Austin Cindric 267
13 41 Ryan Preece 267
14 43 Erik Jones 267
15 9 Chase Elliott 267
16 99 Daniel Suarez 267
17 14 Chase Briscoe 267
18 8 Kyle Busch 267
19 48 Alex Bowman 267
20 7 Corey LaJoie 267
21 17 Chris Buescher 267
22 34 Michael McDowell 267
23 31 Justin Haley 267
24 77 Ty Dillon 266
25 38 Todd Gilliland 266
26 51 Ryan Newman 265
27 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 263
28 6 Brad Keselowski 262
29 19 Martin Truex Jr. 237
30 11 Denny Hamlin 236
31 1 Ross Chastain 221
32 42 John Hunter Nemechek 218
33 15 J.J. Yeley 218
34 5 Kyle Larson 214
35 78 Josh Bilicki 201
36 21 Harrison Burton 165