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Christopher Bell wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville – NASCAR on NBC Sports

by Nov 6, 2022Blog0 comments

Christopher Bell dominated the second half and won Sunday’s 500-lap NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway to claim a spot in the Championship Four Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.
Bell, who advanced to the final four for the first time, faced a must-win situation Sunday and came through.
Bell’s victory was almost overshadowed by a last-gasp, last-lap dash by Ross Chastain, who bulled his way through the top 10 riding the outside wall to edge Denny Hamlin for the last playoff spot.
Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Bell and Chastain will race for the title in Phoenix. The highest finisher of the four will win the Cup championship. Logano qualified for the Phoenix four by winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The other three finalists qualified Sunday.
Chastain, who has had a breakout season for Trackhouse Racing, tried a crazy, rarely-seen strategy on the last lap. He pushed his car beyond its limits, jamming it against the outside wall and zooming past five cars while scraping the wall. He edged Hamlin at the finish line to surprise most in the crowd and many of his competitors. His last lap was run in 18.845 seconds, faster than the track qualifying record.
The stunning run by Chastain, which he said he had tried on a NASCAR video game, sent his pit into a frenzy of disbelief and celebration.
Bell finished in front of Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Chastain. After the race, Keselowski was disqualified because his car failed to meet minimum weight requirements. He was dropped to last place.
Hamlin, who led 203 laps but faltered near the finish, ended the afternoon four points below the cutline. William Byron (minus-21), Ryan Blaney (minus-26) and Chase Briscoe (minus-61) also failed to qualify for the Phoenix championship hunt.
Bell took control of the race in the second half and was leading Blaney by a few car lengths with 34 laps to go when Landon Cassill crashed to bring out the caution flag. The leaders pitted for tires, but Briscoe, who needed a win to make the final four, stayed on track, hoping to keep track position with older tires.
Briscoe, who finished ninth, eventually lost the lead to the drivers with fresher tires. Bell passed him for first place with five laps to go.
Bell, who led 150 laps, said his team gave him the day’s best car.
“When our back is against the wall, looks like it’s over, they show up and give me the fastest car out here,” he said. “I don’t know, man. Words can’t describe this feeling.”
Words also fell short for those trying to describe Chastain’s dramatic come-from-behind burst. Forcing the car into the outside wall and riding it to the finish he needed was the sort of script no movie producer would accept.
Surprisingly for the tight confines of Martinsville, much of the race was run without cautions (other than those at stage ends). This resulted in most of the field being at least a lap behind the leaders by the end of Stage 2. The first “non-stage” caution occurred on lap 274 when Chastain pushed Brad Keselowski into the outside wall.
The chances of Briscoe reaching the final four declined considerably when he was sent to the rear of the field for removing equipment. During a pit stop at the end of Stage 1, his gas can wound up in another pit stall.
Kyle Larson led 68 laps and Elliott 52 in the first stage, but Hamlin charged to the front with 10 laps left and won the stage. Hamlin also won the second stage. Hamlin led 140 of the race’s first 260 laps.
Stage 1 winner: Denny Hamlin
Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin
Who had a good race: Christopher Bell had the power when he needed it and scored in a must-win situation. The victory was the 200th for Joe Gibbs Racing. … Ross Chastain made an outrageous last-lap run that will be talked about for years to come.
Who had a bad race: Kyle Busch was lapped early and often. He finished 30th, six laps down. … Martin Truex Jr., usually a contender at Martinsville, was never in the mix at the front and finished 21st, two laps down. … Tyler Reddick parked his car before the halfway point, saying he didn’t feel well. He was examined and released from the infield care center. He finished last.
Next: The NASCAR Cup Series champion will be decided in the season finale Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway. The race will be broadcast by NBC.
The crowning of the NASCAR Cup Series champion took on a new dimension in 2014 when officials, seeking to juice the final weeks of the season with a new twist, decided on an elimination format, trimming the field as the playoffs progressed.
In part, the idea was designed to create “Game 7 moments,” or super-exciting finishes, as drivers competed to advance through the playoffs and, ultimately, to win the series championship.
The final races of the season since that change haven’t produced the electrifying, side-by-side, fender-banging finish between contenders that NASCAR might prefer, but most have seen emotional highlights.
The tightest margin of victory over the stretch occurred in 2021, when Kyle Larson outran Martin Truex Jr. by .398 of a second to win the title. Close behind was Jimmie Johnson’s .466 of a second win in 2016.
NBC Sports ranks the eight championship races since 2014:
1. Martin Truex Jr., champion, 2017 — The Homestead-Miami Speedway victory lane excitement following Truex’s championship run reached an emotional peak rarely seen in NASCAR. Truex outran a charging Kyle Busch to win the race (and the championship) by .681 of a second, ending what had been a trying season for the Furniture Row team. Sherry Pollex, Truex’s long-time girlfriend, went through a tough battle with cancer, and Barney Visser, the team owner, suffered a heart attack, forcing him to miss the season finale.
2. Kyle Busch, champion, 2015 — Busch’s prospects looked poor indeed when he suffered a broken leg at Daytona International Speedway in February, putting him on the sidelines for 11 races. He rallied to make the playoffs and won the championship race at Homestead by 1.55 seconds over Kevin Harvick.
3. Kevin Harvick, champion, 2014 — The title race produced tension in the closing laps as Harvick held off Ryan Newman, who was seeking his first win of the season, in a three-lap run to the finish. Harvick advanced from 12th to first over the final 15 laps, winning by .50 of a second.
4. Jimmie Johnson, champion, 2016 — Johnson led the race’s final three laps despite starting in the rear because of a pre-race inspection failure. The championship was Johnson’s seventh, tying him with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the most in series history. Playoff contenders Carl Edwards and Joey Logano crashed late in the race.
5. Kyle Larson, champion, 2021 — Larson ended a spectacular 10-win season by outrunning Martin Truex Jr. by .398 at the finish.
6. Chase Elliott, champion, 2020 — Elliott’s car failed pre-race inspection, putting him at the back of the field for the start. That proved to be a non-issue as he won by race by 2.74 seconds over Brad Keselowski, sparking a wild celebration for the sport’s most popular driver in the first title race at Phoenix Raceway.
7. Joey Logano, champion, 2018Logano led the final 12 laps to breeze to his first Cup championship, finishing 1.72 seconds ahead of Martin Truex Jr.
8. Kyle Busch, champion, 2019 — In statistically the biggest runaway in the playoff era, Busch outran Martin Truex Jr. by 4.57 seconds to claim his second championship.
Ty Gibbs held off Noah Gragson in the final laps Saturday to win a 200-mile race at Phoenix Raceway and claim the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
Gibbs, Gragson and Justin Allgaier swapped the lead much of the race, but Gibbs had the fastest car over the closing segment. Gragson made slight gains over the final 10 laps but couldn’t challenge Gibbs for the lead.
Gragson finished second and Allgaier third.
Gibbs had the race’s fastest car at the beginning and at the end. He led a total of 125 laps, including the final 21.
Gragson led 35 laps, and Allgaier led 26.

Ty Gibbs, who stirred controversy by crashing a teammate last week at Martinsville Speedway, brought the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship home to Joe Gibbs Racing by winning Saturday’s season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Gibbs, 20, outran fellow championship contenders Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier and Josh Berry — all JR Motorsports drivers — to claim the race win and series title. The victory was Gibbs’ seventh of the season. He led 125 of the 200 laps.
Gragson, who led 35 laps, chased Gibbs over the final eight laps and made gains but couldn’t close the gap at the finish.
The closing miles featured fierce racing for the win — and the championship — by Allgaier, Gibbs and Gragson. The lead swapped hands numerous times as each driver searched for the best lines through the one-mile track’s turns.
“I know what I did last week was unacceptable, and I apologize once again,” Gibbs said minutes after winning. “It was unacceptable because we could have had two shots to win this deal, and it was stupid from an organization standpoint. I will sit here and tell you I’m sorry as much as I can, but it is not going to fix it. I’ve got to fix my actions.
“I feel like today I had a good race. We made some good moves. Me and the 7 (Justin Allgaier) were racing really hard. Hopefully we put on a good show for you fans. Thank you for all of what you guys do.”
Gragson and Allgaier, who led 26 laps, followed Gibbs to the finish.
A caution with 45 laps to go opened the door for pit stops for the championship drivers. Allgaier held the lead over Gibbs and Gragson at that point. Gibbs’ team won that challenge in the pits, returning him to the track in first place ahead of Allgaier, Berry and Gragson. Berry’s move into third place gave him his best spot of the race.
But Berry fell back with 30 laps to go, losing momentum and slapping the outside wall.
With 60 laps to go, the championship contenders filled the first four spots, with Gragson first, Allgaier second, Gibbs third and Berry fourth. Berry ran at the back of the top 10 for most of the first half of the race but rallied in the final stage.
A fast mid-race pit stop put Allgaier in front to start the last stage, but Gibbs needed only a couple of laps to pass him for the lead.
A few laps later, a multi-car crash produced the day’s fifth caution. The wreck started with contact between Sammy Smith and Sam Mayer.
Gibbs, the pole winner, led the race’s first 45 laps to win Stage 1 and also got a boost during a later round of pit stops when all three JR Motorsports teams had issues.
Gibbs received pressure at the front from Gragson, Allgaier and Smith in Stage 2 but also won it.
Gibbs wrecked Brandon Jones, his JGR teammate, on the last lap to win last Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, denying Jones the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. Gibbs apologized numerous times, including after his championship win, for the Martinsville move, which produced heavy criticism for the young driver.
Stage 1 winner: Ty Gibbs
Stage 2 winner: Ty Gibbs
Who had a good race: Ty Gibbs managed to swim through what had been a tough week of criticism after his Martinsville move and won the race and the title. … Noah Gragson had Gibbs’ number for a portion of the race but couldn’t pull close near the end. … Justin Allgaier finished third but missed yet another shot at the championship.
Who had a bad race: Josh Berry managed to race near the front for a while but ultimately finished 13th after slapping the wall. … Dillon Bassett qualified well but finished last with an engine issue.
Next: The 2023 Xfinity Series schedule will open Feb. 18 with a 300-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.
Joey Logano will start first as he chases a second NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday.
Logano won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s Cup finale at Phoenix Raceway. The 312-mile race will determine the 2022 Cup champion. Logano ran 134.389 mph.
Chase Elliott will start fifth, Christopher Bell 17th and Ross Chastain 25th. They join Logano as the only drivers eligible for the Cup title Sunday. The highest finisher will be champion.
Elliott won at Phoenix in 2020, and Alan Gustafson, his crew chief, has four Phoenix wins.
Logano has won twice at Phoenix. Elliott has one win at the track, while Bell and Chastain are winless.
Bell enters the season finale with two wins in the past four races. Both were elimination events.
Chastain was runnerup at Phoenix in the March race.