Christopher Bell nets clutch, playoff-saving victory at Charlotte Roval


ByReid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service October 9, 2022  at 5:44 PM

CONCORD, N.C. – In a turn of events that bordered on the unbelievable, Christopher Bell found his only path to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

On fresh tires, thanks to a strategic pit stop under caution on Lap 105, Bell passed Kevin Harvick to the outside through Turns 1 and 2 after a restart on Lap 111 and pulled away to win Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

With the victory, Bell transferred to the Round of 8 and simultaneously eliminated reigning series champion Kyle Larson, who brought his No. 5 Chevrolet to pit road on Lap 98 after hitting the wall and breaking the right-rear toe link on his car.

Bell didn’t have the fastest car on Sunday, but he and crew chief Adam Stevens took advantage of two late cautions to make the winning move.

“Man, you’ve just got to be there at the end of these things,” said Bell, who entered the race 45 points below the cut line for the Round of 8. “I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. No secret that road courses have not been our strength this year.

“We were just there at the right time. We obviously weren’t in position to win (before taking tires). We rolled the dice, gambled, and it paid off for us.”

A chagrined Larson blamed himself for his ouster.

“I just made way too many mistakes all year long,” Larson said. “Made another one today. Ultimately cost us an opportunity to go chase another championship.

“Just extremely mad at myself. I let the team down a number of times this year, and let them down in a big way today.”

What had been an orderly race for 103 laps descended into chaos after NASCAR called the third caution of the race on for debris in Turn 6, ending a 50-lap green-flag run.

That’s when Bell brought his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to pit road for tires. He restarted 12th on Lap 107, and by the time he returned to the finish line — due in part to a pile-up in Turn 1 — Bell was pursuing Tyler Reddick for the second position.

On Lap 108, Bell slipped past Reddick and was chasing Harvick when a second debris caution for a melee in Turn 2 forced the race to overtime. On the final restart, Harvick was a sitting duck on older tires, but he managed to hold off Kyle Busch for the second spot.

Joining Bell and Briscoe in the Round of 8 are Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, William Byron and Ross Chastain.

The Cup Series’ next race is the South Point 400, scheduled next Sunday, Oct. 16 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The event opens the three-race Round of 8, which will determine the Championship 4 field for the season-ending title race Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

NOTE: Inspection is complete in the Cup Series garage with no issues, confirming Bell as the race winner.

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