Four NASCAR Cup Series Races, Four Winners, Christopher Bell Takes Phoenix

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Phoenix Raceway, Phoenix, AZ — March 10, 2024

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Phoenix Raceway for the first time since Ryan Blaney captured the 2023 Championship at the track in November.

NASCAR officials announced in January updates to the NASCAR Cup Series rules package for short tracks and road courses in 2024, introducing aerodynamic changes designed to promote more competitive racing on those track types.

The changes — announced in a technical bulletin to Cup Series teams — are set to go into effect for the circuit’s first points-paying short-track race of the season at Phoenix Raceway.

With a simplified rear diffuser and shorter rear spoiler, each vehicle hit the 1-mile tri-oval for practice before Sunday’s Shriners Children’s 500.

Denny Hamlin, who sits on the pole, summarized what most drivers said about the changes: “I would say that it was probably a little bit better in traffic, very small from what I could tell. Nothing earth-shattering. If you got caught behind somebody, you would really get caught behind someone. But that’s typical of what we had before.”

Early Season Notes

Just three races into the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, the drivers’ and teams’ performances are a testament to the sustained close competition the fans have come to know and love about NASCAR. The Next-Gen car is bringing the closest, most thrilling side-by-side racing in the world, and the numbers back it up.

  • The 2024 season has produced an average Margin of Victory of 0.222 seconds through the first three races, the fourth-closest average Margin of Victory through the first three Cup races of a season since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993, just behind the series record of 0.136 seconds set in 2022.
  • At Atlanta Motor Speedway, fans witnessed the third-closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history when Daniel Suárez captured his second NASCAR Cup Series victory, narrowly beating reigning champion Ryan Blaney to the finish line by .003 seconds. The historic three-wide photo finish included Suárez, Blaney, and two-time series champion Kyle Busch, who finished .007 seconds behind Suárez – marking the closest final margin between first and third in NASCAR Cup Series history.
  • The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 407 Green Flag Passes for the Lead – the most through the first three races of the year since the inception of the stat in 2005, surpassing the previous record of 302 Green Flag Passes for the Lead through the first three races set in 2022.
  • This season, the NASCAR Cup Series has produced 28 different lap leaders in the first three races—the second-largest number of lap leaders through the first three races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-2024), behind only the 2011 season, which had 32 leaders.
  • The NASCAR Cup Series is averaging 37.7 lead changes per race through the first three races of the 2024 season, the second-most in the Modern Era (1972-2024), behind only the 2011 season with 41.0 lead changes.
  • The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 23,027 Total Green Flag Passes – the most through the first three races of the year since the inception of the stat in 2005, surpassing the previous record of 21,245 Green Flag Passes through the first three races set last season.
  • For the first time since 2017, the NASCAR Cup Series has produced three different point standings leaders in the season’s first three races.
  • This is the 37th time in the Modern Era (1972-2024) the NASCAR Cup Series has opened the season with three different winners at the first three tracks on the schedule.

Will it be four-for-four after Phoenix? The odds are good that it could happen.

Today’s Race

Hamlin won the pole with a speed of 132.665 mph. He was just 0.088 seconds quicker than his teammate Ty Gibbs, who will start next to him on the front row. The series’ most popular driver, Chase Elliott, starts in row two, along with Michigan’s Erik Jones, who posted his best qualifying effort of 2024 to date. Daytona 500 Champion and the defending Champion of this race, William Byron, starts fifth.

The race distance is just over 500 kilometers, 312 miles, with stages of 60/125/127 laps. Nine previous Phoenix winners are in the field today.

Active Phoenix Winners

Wins

Seasons

Kyle Busch

3

2019, 2018, 2005

Joey Logano

3

2022, 2020, 2016

Denny Hamlin

2

2019, 2012

Ross Chastain

1

2023

William Byron

1

2023

Chase Briscoe

1

2022

Kyle Larson

1

2021

Martin Truex Jr

1

2021

Chase Elliott

1

2020

Ross Chastain won last November and starts in the 12th position today.

Stage One

Ty Gibbs(54) led the first lap, just ahead of Erik Jones(43), as cars spread out five wide, fighting for positions at the start. That competitive racing produced a caution flag seven laps in.

Five Wide Racing at Phoenix / NASCAR Photo

Derek Kraus(16) spun in turn two, Austin Cindric(2) and Austin Dillon(3) got collected in the incident. Cindric’s car had to be towed to the garage. Dillon lost three laps in the pits as his crew worked on damage to the front of the car. Kraus was able to continue with minor damage.

Back to green flag racing, Gibbs, Jones, Denny Hamlin(11), Tyler Reddick(45), and Chase Elliott were the top five.

The drivers seemed content to line up and put laps on the board until the race progressed to the end of the Stage. The top four were within one second of the leader.

With 14 laps to go to the end of Stage One, Reddick and Hamlin passed Jones. Closing on the leader, the race for Stage Points was on.

With four laps to go, Reddick pulled even with Gibbs and took the lead the next time under the flag stand. It was Reddick’s first Stage win of the season.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 45 Tyler Reddick 10
2 54 Ty Gibbs 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin 8
4 43 Erik Jones 7
5 9 Chase Elliott 6
6 24 William Byron 5
7 12 Ryan Blaney* 4
8 34 Michael McDowell* 3
9 14 Chase Briscoe* 2
10 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

The entire field opted to pit during the stage-ending caution. Hamlin was first off the pit road, returning to the head of the field. He was followed by Reddick, William Byron(24), Elliott, and Gibbs. Erik Jones lost six positions during his stop while his crew made sure the left front lug was properly secured. Jones came out in 10th place.

Wheel issues caused trouble for two more teams. Kyle Larson(5) had to return to his pit stall for a repair to the single lug stud on the next-gen car. His crew removed the wheel and cleaned up the threads on the attachment.

Carson Hocevar(77) had to make a second stop to tighten a loose wheel his crew failed to properly secure during their first stop. He and Larson started at the rear of the pack when the race resumed.

The restart was much different this time. Hamlin held onto the top spot over Reddick. Elliott ran third. Gibbs, who led the first 57 laps of the race, ran in the fourth position.

Like in Stage One, drivers seemed content to accumulate laps. Ryan Blaney began the cycle of green flag pit stops on lap 117. Most of the leaders followed in the next few laps.

Todd Gilliland(38), Kyle Busch(8), Ricky Stenhouse Jr(47), Hocevar, and Kraus were all close to going a lap down. They opted to stay out, hoping to catch a caution and improve their track position.

Of the cars that pitted, Hamlin was set to reclaim the lead when the long-run cars pitted. It never happened. Reddick came off pit road with new life in his car. Whatever changes his crew made sent Reddick to the front, and he passed Hamlin. Reddick became the new race leader when all the pit stops cycled through.

With 15 laps to go in the Stage, Christopher Bell(20) passed Hamlin for second. Byron and Martin Truex Jr.(19) ran fourth and fifth, respectively.

Bell caught Reddick with ten laps to go in the Stage. They both put Joey Logano(22) a lap down. Today’s race was the first this year Logano did not start on the front row.

Bell passed Reddick with five laps to go. He also put Ryan Preece(41) a lap down, taking Logano out of the “free pass” position.

Bell’s Stage win was his first of the year.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 20 Christopher Bell 10
2 45 Tyler Reddick 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 19 Martin Truex Jr. 6
6 12 Ryan Blaney* 5
7 9 Chase Elliott 4
8 10 Noah Gragson* 3
9 6 Brad Keselowski* 2
10 17 Chris Buescher* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Christopher Bell’s crew had trouble with the wheel on the left rear of his race car. The stop took longer than normal because they could not tighten the wheel properly. The mishap took Bell out of the lead. He was 10th when the race restarted.

Hamlin and Reddick will restart on the front row again.

Kyle Busch brought out the caution just after the race resumed when he spun off turn two. Only four yellow flags have slowed the race to this point: two for Stage breaks and two for on-track incidents.

However, as it always seems, cautions breed cautions. Just after the restart for the Busch spin, Joey Logano got turned by John Hunter Nemechek(42) in turn one. Logano’s Ford Mustang Dark Horse suffered severe damage, as did Nemechek and Kraus, all retired from the race. Corey LaJoie(7) and Zane Smith(71) were also involved but could continue with minor repairs.

In the process, Reddick moved past Hamlin. Blaney, Byron, and Truex rounded out the top five.

On the drop of the green, Truex had a clear lane open in front of him, and he shot through to join the battle for the lead. Hamlin spun, trying to challenge Reddick, and the yellow waved again.

The good news on this caution? Many leaders pitted for Sunoco Racing Gasoline as the remaining laps fell within the fuel window to complete the remaining laps.

Truex and Preece, two drivers who did not pit, led the field to the restart. Reddick and Bell were 12th and 13th after their pit stops. With 90 laps to go, every position is being contested.

Wild action at Phoenix / NASCAR Photo

The top five at the front were Truex, Preece, Gibbs, Chastain, and Chris Buescher(17).

Truex checked out on the field, building a four-second advantage over Gibbs and Preece, who battled for the second spot. Back in the pack with 60 laps to go, Bell drove up to fifth while Reddick remained mired back in 12th.

With 50 laps to go, Truex had extended his lead interval to five seconds. But it was Bell in second, and he was closing. The talk in Truex’s pit stall was whether Truex could make his tires last to the finish. Fuel was not in the discussion.

Truex came to pit road with 41 laps to go, giving Bell the lead. Gibbs, in second, trailed the leader by two and a half seconds. Truex went a lap down while getting service on his race car.

With 11 laps to go, Bell held a comfortable lead. Chris Buescher moved into second place but trailed Bell by six seconds. Gibbs dropped to third place. It was a good day for RFK Racing, as Brad Keselowski(6) passed Chastain for fourth.

Four races, four winners. Christopher Bell booked his ticket to the playoffs, but we have yet to have a repeat winner in the Cup Series in 2024.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Kyle Larson 141 In Win
2 William Byron 122 In Win
3 Daniel Suarez 114 In Win
4 Christopher Bell 92 In Win
5 Ryan Blaney* 142 +61
6 Martin Truex Jr. 134 +53
7 Ross Chastain 129 +48
8 Ty Gibbs 121 +40
9 Denny Hamlin 113 +32
10 Chase Elliott 113 +32
11 Tyler Reddick 111 +30
12 Kyle Busch 110 +29
13 Alex Bowman 99 +18
14 Bubba Wallace 97 +16
15 Austin Cindric* 87 +6
16 Chris Buescher* 85 +4
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Michael McDowell* 81 -4
18 Chase Briscoe* 81 -4
19 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 80 -5
20 John Hunter Nemechek 80 -5
21 Erik Jones 77 -8
22 Brad Keselowski* 73 -12
23 Corey LaJoie 70 -15
24 Carson Hocevar 70 -15
25 Daniel Hemric 67 -18

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Notable are the names missing from the top 25. Joey Logano(29th), Josh Berry(31st), Austin Dillon(32nd), and Ryan Preece 35th.

Results of the Shriners Children’s 500 from Phoenix Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 20 Christopher Bell 312
2 17 Chris Buescher 5.465 312
3 54 Ty Gibbs 6.032 312
4 6 Brad Keselowski 9.243 312
5 12 Ryan Blaney 9.448 312
6 1 Ross Chastain 9.499 312
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 13.150 312
8 34 Michael McDowell 14.619 312
9 14 Chase Briscoe 14.876 312
10 45 Tyler Reddick 15.348 312
11 11 Denny Hamlin 15.812 312
12 10 Noah Gragson 15.844 312
13 99 Daniel Suarez 16.817 312
14 5 Kyle Larson 17.342 312
15 77 Carson Hocevar 19.060 312
16 23 Bubba Wallace 19.398 312
17 38 Todd Gilliland 20.569 312
18 24 William Byron 21.295 312
19 9 Chase Elliott 22.966 312
20 48 Alex Bowman 23.290 312
21 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 28.854 312
22 8 Kyle Busch -1 311
23 41 Ryan Preece -1 311
24 51 Justin Haley -1 311
25 42 John Hunter Nemechek -1 311
26 4 Josh Berry -2 310
27 21 Harrison Burton -2 310
28 31 Daniel Hemric -2 310
29 71 Zane Smith -3 309
30 15 Kaz Grala -3 309
31 43 Erik Jones -7 305
32 3 Austin Dillon -8 304
33 7 Corey LaJoie -108 204
34 22 Joey Logano -109 203
35 16 Derek Kraus -109 203
36 2 Austin Cindric -306 6