Christopher Bell thought there was a hole for him to fill in a frantic run to the finish Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
NASCAR thought otherwise.
Bell crossed the finish line second to William Byron but was penalized for going below the double white line on the backstretch. He was placed as the last car on the lead lap in the 23rd position.
Coming off Turn 2 with a run, Bell, running third, muscled his Toyota Camry to the inside of Ross Chastain. But Bell wound up too far inside Chastain, straddling the white line and leading to the penalty.
“I haven’t seen a replay or anything, but I saw a hole there and tried to take it and we came together,” Bell said immediately afterward. “I know he was coming down – it kind of is what it is. Our DeWalt Camry was extremely fast today. We’ve been pretty fast all year, just haven’t got the results to show for it. Just have to keep digging.”
With expectations that the new Atlanta would race like a superspeedway, NASCAR put the out-of-bounds line in place as is seen at Daytona and Talladega. Bell was the only driver called for the infraction in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
Chastain was expecting Bell to stay in line so that the two of them could make a run at Byron and said he backed up to Bell in Turns 1 and 2. The unexpected move stalled out Chastain’s chances at the win and played into Bell incurring the penalty since Chastain didn’t leave Bell a lane.
“I didn’t leave him a lane,” said Chastain. “I knew that, and all of a sudden I felt him side drafting me and I looked over and he’s underneath me. I’m staring and a few feet off the line – there’s not enough room for a car.”
Joe Gibbs went to the NASCAR hauler to review the penalty and discuss it but did not expect anything to change with the finishing order.