Bell shakes up playoff picture with NASCAR victory

Christopher Bell. Picture: New Hampshire Twitter

After being the bridesmaid at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last year, Christopher Bell has taken his second NASCAR Cup Series victory and locked himself into the 2022 playoffs.

Coming in second last year to Aric Almirola, Bell was determined to take victory at the one mile track, and was able to do so, beating Chase Elliott by 5.7 seconds.

After the race began, it took just four laps for the caution to come out, with a big crash involving Alex Bowman, Ty Dillon, BJ McLeod, and Josh Bilicki.

Dillon’s #42 Chevrolet got loose after contact with Justin Haley, and his car turned up the track, and into the outside wall collecting three others.

This happened just days after Dillon announced that he would not be returning to Petty GMS Motorsports next year, continuing his frustrating run in 2022.

Martin Truex Jnr would go on to win both stages after starting on pole, with a total of seven cautions interrupting the race in the first 185 laps.

Handling on the bumpy New Hampshire surface proved to be an issue for championship contenders Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney, both spinning during the race and eventually recovering for a top 20 finish.

Upset-win hopeful Almirola struggled on track as well, having issues with his shifter, crushing any hopes of him getting a back-to-back win at New Hampshire.

Another incident during the day occurred under caution, when Austin Dillon ran into Brad Keselowski on the backstretch, with Keselowski retaliating and hitting Dillon back.

“You guys saw it, we’ve gone at it a couple of times in the past few years, I just don’t like the way certain people race me,” Dillon said.

“Probably wasn’t the best way to handle it, under caution, but we weren’t very good today.”

After a hectic first two stages, Truex Jnr found himself back in traffic, with the handling on his car getting worse.

This would pave the way for Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Bell to take to the front of the pack.

Kurt Busch and Logano would eventually come to pit road to refuel, but it was Bell who was able to take skip away for the win.

“Man, that win was much needed right there,” Bell said.

“That was a hell of a race from my viewpoint, that was so much fun racing with the 45, the 22 and the nine, all running different lines.

“That was a blast.

“But I’m just so happy to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it’s good to get Rheem back in victory lane.”

Bell’s win shakes up the playoff picture, putting the 2017 NASCAR Cup championship winner Truex Jnr 16th in the playoff standings.

Second-place finisher Elliott extended his points lead, while Bubba Wallace had one of the best races of his career, finishing in third.

NASCAR returns next week to Pocono raceway, for the 21st points-paying race of the season.

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