Christopher Bell Survives NASCAR Overtime to Win at New Hampshire

0
454
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, NH — June 23, 2024

The NASCAR Cup Series makes its annual visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway today for the USA Today 301. It has been a challenge already this weekend as Mother Nature has disrupted the schedule. Only seven laps of practice were completed before the rain washed out the remainder of the time available. Qualifying also fell victim to the weather. The field will line up according to the NASCAR Rule Book, with Chase Elliott on the pole.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was on July 11, 1993, and the inaugural race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace driving for Team Penske. The event saw 13 leads changes among six leaders, and Wallace led 106 laps, taking the lead the final time with 30 to go.

There have been 52 NASCAR Cup Series races held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 1993; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year from 1997-2017. In 2018, the series reverted back to visiting the track just once a season.

One thing that makes New Hampshire Motor Speedway unique is its 1.058-mile layout, the only of its kind on the schedule, but even more so is the giant lobster the track awards the race winner.

Martin Truex Jr. hoisted the monster in Victory Lane last year at this race and is still looking for his first win of 2024. Truex is one of six active drivers who has posted wins at New Hampshire.

Active New Hampshire Winners Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 3 2017, 2012, 2007
Kyle Busch 3 2017, 2015, 2006
Brad Keselowski 2 2020, 2014
Joey Logano 2 2014, 2009
Martin Truex Jr. 1 2023
Christopher Bell 1 2022

Of the six former New Hampshire winners entered this weekend, three are still looking for their first win of the season – Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Both Busch and Logano are currently ranked below the Playoff outlook cutline. Truex, who recently announced his retirement from fulltime racing at the end of the season, is riding a 33-race winless streak dating back to this race last season. Treux starts 17th today

One driver that will be tough to beat this weekend will be Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, all three of his wins this season have come on tracks 1-mile in length or shorter (Bristol, Richmond and Dover). New Hampshire is one of Hamlin’s better tracks, in 30 starts he has put up three wins, 11 top fives (both his wins and top fives are tied with Kyle Busch for most among active drivers) and 19 top 10s (most among active drivers). Hamlin lines up in the 14th position on the starting grid.

Stages for today’s race are 70/ 115/116 laps, making up the 318.46 mile distance.

Stage One

Chase Elliott(9) ran away from the pack at the start of the race building a three second lead over the field.

Elliott led the first 42 laps of the race before the fastest car on the track, Christopher Bell(20), ran him down and took over the top spot.

Drivers were told pre-race that it is quite possible weather will cut the race short. With the First Stage only 70 laps, the Stage ending caution will be critical to making necessary adjustments. As will exiting the pits in good position without a penalty to secure track position.

Bell held the lead to the green and white checkers with some shuffling of positions through the top ten. Joey Logano(22) took the second position from Elliott.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 20 Christopher Bell 10
2 22 Joey Logano* 9
3 9 Chase Elliott 8
4 12 Ryan Blaney* 7
5 4 Josh Berry * 6
6 19 Martin Truex Jr. 5
7 11 Denny Hamlin 4
8 1 Ross Chastain 3
9 45 Tyler Reddick 2
10 48 Alex Bowman 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

Stage Two

Bell and Logano led the field back to the restart. Followed by Martin Truex Jr.(19), Elliott and Josh Berry(4). Three wide racing commenced immediately as drivers vied for positions to be as close to the front as possible should rain approach the Speedway.

Green flag pitstops began on lap 120. Bell led through lap 125 when he came to pit road for service. Todd Gilliland(38) inherited the top spot and was content to remain on the track hoping for a caution flag.

Daniel Hemric(31) gave the long run teams the break they were looking for when he spun off turn two.

Most of the leaders pitted under the caution generated from Hemric’s spin. When all the service stops were complete the running order was Denny Hamlin out front, Logano on the front row beside him. Corey LaJoie(7) and Truex lined up behind them, with Bell and Elliott on the third row.

Back to green flag racing, Hamlin and Logano separated themselves from the pack and began to pull away.

On Lap 154 Kyle Busch(8) and Noah Gragson(10) got together bringing out the yellow flag again. The restart this time features the same duo on the front row, but Truex and Bell on row two.

Truex tries to make it three wide when the green flag drops. That allows Hamlin to pull away and Truex takes the second position from Logano. As the laps wind down to the end of the Stage, Truex continues to draw closer to Hamlin. Logano is 2.5 seconds behind that battle.

Truex cannot catch his teammate and Hamlin wins the Stage.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 11 Denny Hamlin 10
2 19 Martin Truex Jr. 9
3 22 Joey Logano* 8
4 20 Christopher Bell 7
5 12 Ryan Blaney* 6
6 38 Todd Gilliland* 5
7 5 Kyle Larson 4
8 4 Josh Berry* 3
9 9 Chase Elliott 2
10 1 Ross Chastain 1

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Drivers

The Final Stage

It is estimated the rain is within 30 minutes of the track. What is not know is when a lightning strike may result in the racing being suspended. All the leaders pit during the Stage ending caution. It is a mix of teams taking two and four tires. The top ten takes on a completely new view.

Tyler Reddick(45) leads, followed by Michael McDowell(34), Kyle Larson(5), Gilliland, Gragson, Austin Cindric(2), Harrison Burton(21), Hamlin and Bell. On the restart Logano and Elliott get together in turn one and the caution flies again.

Martin Truex crew had trouble getting the left rear lug nut tight. The jack was released prior to the single locking lug clicking into place. They had to re-jack the car to make sure it was tight. As a result, Treux lost all of his track position.

Everyone is pushing and shoving as the potential end of the race is closing in. Back to green flag racing and Corey LaJoie gets hung up in a four-wide battle, spins, and somehow misses everyone to avoid a major incident.

On the restart this time, Reddick leads and the battle for second develops with Hamlin, Blaney, and Larson. Three wide racing everywhere on the track results in Truex and Brad Keselowski(6) getting together and Treux spins to create another caution.

Through all the incidents, Reddick maintains the lead. Kyle Busch is the next driver to spin and create another caution and as cars circle the track under the yellow drivers are reporting rain sprinkling on their windshields.

NASCAR displays the red flag and calls the field to pit road as result of the rain. Crews cover their cars. A look at the radar seems to indicate the race is not likely to restart. Reddick sits in the top spot. Blaney and Hamlin were fighting for second. Both felt they had something for Reddick if they could have kept racing. With 82 laps to go, everyone waits to see if racing will resume.

After a 2:14 red flag, NASCAR had dried the track enough to put the cars out to race with wet weather tires. Radar indicates a window that may allow the race to be run to its completion.

The running order heading to the restart was Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Todd Gilliland, Justin Haley(51), and Michael McDowell.

During the warm-up laps, Kyle Busch hit the wall, it appeared something broke on the car. Kyle parked the car at the head of the front stretch and it had to be towed to the garage.

The race restarted with 73 laps to go. Reddick choose the outside lane, Blaney will line up on the inside.

Reddick drove away and position changes began immediately. Larson and Bell passed Blaney. Bell moved to second ahead of Larson. Speeds began to pick up with every lap.

Ross Chastain(1) spun accelerating off turn four with 67 laps to go. Everyone avoided contact, but the caution was displayed. A few drivers pitted, NASCAR mandated everyone had to stay on wet weather tires.

Reddick and Bell with lead the field back to the green flag with 60 laps to go. Bell immediately dropped to the apron of the race track and was able to easily pass and pull away from Reddick. Behind the leaders cars fanned out three and four wide for position. Larson, Blaney, and Chris Buescher battled for third behind the two leaders.

Drivers were looking for lanes all over the track. Blaney used the high side of the track to pass Larson and then move past Reddick for the second position.

Corey LaJoie spun in turn one and brought out the caution with 46 laps to go. Tire changes were not allowed, NASCAR deemed the track too wet to consider going back to slicks.

Getting ready to go back to green, Blaney opted to follow Bell on the high side. Larson and Buescher took the low lane as they go to racing with 39 laps to go.

It was the right decision as Blaney found traction on the top of the track and easily pulled away following Bell.

Gragson spun driving low into turn one, he collected Bubba Wallace(23) and Ty Dillon(3) bringing out the caution.

NASCAR declared drivers must pit and change tires in a non competitive stop. Wet tires still have to be used and you would not lose a position during the time on pit road. During the caution, Christopher Bell, the leader, notified his crew that his vehicle was experiencing excessive voltage draw and the low volts warning light illuminated on the dash. He was instructed to turn off his cool suit to conserve volts.

Teams reported the tires that came off the cars looked great and with 27 laps to go when they restart the new tries should last to the end of the race. The lineup was the same as last time with the exception that Josh Berry replaced Larson on the inside.

When the lines straightened out Bell, Blaney, Larson, McDowell and Josh Berry held the top five positions.

With 20 laps to go a one second interval between first and second, then second to third. With 18 laps to go, Carson Hocevar(77) spun complaining that the wet tires had completely gone away. NASCAR mandated that crews put their last set of wet tires on the cars for the sprint to the finish with nine laps to go. Bell and Blaney on the outside, McDowell and Larson on the inside.

McDowell and Blaney get together as they drive into turn one. McDowell’s car lost all grip on the low side of the track.

Lining up for the restart again, Bell, Berry, and Larson take the top. Briscoe, Buescher, and Haley take the inside with four to go. Bell and Berry pull away and Keselowski spins sending the race to overtime.

The lineup is the same with Burton in the third spot on the bottom instead of Haley. Bell pulled away as Briscoe and Berry fought side-by-side slowing the pair down. Bell wins, Briscoe takes second.

Christopher Bell Celebrates with the big lobster / NASCAR Photo

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 Kyle Larson 620 In Win (3)
2 Denny Hamlin 580 In Win (3)
3 Christopher Bell 555 In Win (3)
4 William Byron 548 In Win (3)
5 Chase Elliott 620 In Win (1)
6 Tyler Reddick 560 In Win (1)
7 Ryan Blaney* 526 In Win (1)
8 Brad Keselowski* 507 In Win (1)
9 Daniel Suarez 368 In Win (1)
10 Austin Cindric* 345 In Win (1)
11 Martin Truex Jr. 572 +155
12 Ross Chastain 510 +93
13 Ty Gibbs 499 +82
14 Alex Bowman 476 +59
15 Chris Buescher* 467 +50
16 Joey Logano* 430 +13
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Bubba Wallace 417 -13
18 Chase Briscoe* 405 -25
19 Kyle Busch 385 -45
20 Josh Berry* 357 -73
21 Todd Gilliland* 347 -83
22 Michael McDowell* 331 -99
23 Carson Hocevar 322 -108
24 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 298 -132
25 Noah Gragson* 297 -133

*Ford Mustang Dark Horse Divers

Results of the USA Today 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway

POS CAR DRIVER Behind LAPS
1 20 Christopher Bell 305
2 14 Chase Briscoe 1.104 305
3 4 Josh Berry 1.109 305
4 5 Kyle Larson 1.371 305
5 17 Chris Buescher 1.751 305
6 45 Tyler Reddick 2.080 305
7 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2.420 305
8 42 John Hunter Nemechek 2.523 305
9 19 Martin Truex Jr. 2.697 305
10 1 Ross Chastain 2.898 305
11 41 Ryan Preece 3.048 305
12 38 Todd Gilliland 3.801 305
13 43 Erik Jones 3.862 305
14 21 Harrison Burton 3.985 305
15 34 Michael McDowell 4.007 305
16 54 Ty Gibbs 4.305 305
17 77 Carson Hocevar 4.522 305
18 9 Chase Elliott 4.523 305
19 2 Austin Cindric 4.687 305
20 16 Ty Dillon 4.724 305
21 99 Daniel Suarez 4.829 305
22 15 Kaz Grala 4.857 305
23 7 Corey LaJoie 5.144 305
24 11 Denny Hamlin 5.173 305
25 12 Ryan Blaney 5.290 305
26 24 William Byron 5.434 305
27 10 Noah Gragson 5.522 305
28 6 Brad Keselowski 5.704 305
29 51 Justin Haley 6.617 305
30 71 Zane Smith -1 304
31 31 Daniel Hemric -2 303
32 22 Joey Logano -3 302
33 3 Austin Dillon -37 268
34 23 Bubba Wallace -40 265
35 8 Kyle Busch -83 222
36 48 Alex Bowman -163 142