Bell overcomes Logano for first Cup win in wild Daytona road race

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Bell overcomes Logano for first Cup win in wild Daytona road race

NASCAR

Bell overcomes Logano for first Cup win in wild Daytona road race

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Christopher Bell powered past Joey Logano with two laps to go at the Daytona road course and then drove away to his first win in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Bell finished 2.1 seconds ahead of Logano and 5.8 seconds ahead of teammate Denny Hamlin in third. Bell led the final two laps. It is his first win in 38 starts and his first in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs.

“This is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far — just so incredibly thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Bell. “Thank you to Jack Irving, Tyler Gibbs (of Toyota). You guys believed in me since day one.

“I’ve prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series, and last year was a huge learning curve for me. I’m very grateful I got the opportunity to run in Cup, and it definitely prepared me to move to Joe Gibbs Racing.”

When Leavine Family Racing shut down its operation, Gibbs hired Bell to replace Erik Jones. During the offseason, Bell was paired with two-time series champion crew chief Adam Stevens.

Bell closed on Logano through the infield with two laps to go and then got a run to Logano’s outside off the bus stop. The two went into the frontstretch chicane side by side, with Bell clearing Logano coming back onto the frontstretch.

A caution for rain with 15 laps to go changed the complexion of the race. Chase Elliott had dominated the event but chose to pit under caution. Bell was also one of the drivers who chose tires, and he beat everyone off pit road.

Logano stayed out and inherited the race lead. Two additional cautions helped Bell make his way through the field, and he was seventh when the race restarted for the final time with eight laps to go.

Bell didn’t think he had a shot at catching Logano.

“Whenever we pitted and came out, I liked where I lined up,” said Bell. “But then the yellows kept coming, and I thought the yellows were hurting me because I felt like I needed laps to get up through there. I didn’t think I was going to get there.

“Adam (Stevens, crew chief) up on the put box kept telling me I was going to get there. Man, I didn’t believe it. He (Logano) really struggled coming out of (Turn) six one time and allowed me to close the gap.”

Logano didn’t think he could have kept Bell at bay with how quickly he closed the gap.

“Tires — he’s the one that got through with tires,” said Logano. “Man, one lap. One more caution lap would have been enough to at least have a door-to-door finish across the line, maybe. I don’t know.

“When he starts catching you a second a lap — gosh, I was just trying to get all I could on the restart, trying to get out there as far as I could because I knew those guys with tires were going to catch us really quick.”

Kurt Busch rebounded from spinning from the lead on Lap 39 to finish fourth. Brad Keselowski recovered from multiple issues, including flat tires and being spun by Busch, to finish fifth.

Kevin Harvick finished sixth, A.J. Allmendinger finished seventh, Michael McDowell finished eighth, Ryan Preece finished ninth, and Alex Bowman finished 10th.

Elliott finished 21st after spinning in Turn 6 with six laps to go. Seeking his fifth consecutive road course win, Elliott ran out of room trying to squeeze between Keselowski and Hamlin. He led a race-high 44 laps and won the first stage.

This is the third time in NASCAR Cup Series history that the first two races of the season were won by first-time winners – McDowell and Bell. The other seasons were 1949 and 1950.

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