Christopher Bell threw another twist into the NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture with a win Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bell and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing group are the 14th different team to win a race. He goes from sitting on the playoff grid bubble to potentially clinching a berth in the postseason.
Bell led the final 42 laps of the Ambetter 301 after taking the lead from Chase Elliott. The two had fresher tires, as did most of the leaders, after pitting under a lap 205 caution and smoothly came through the field. Once in the lead, Bell drove away from Elliott by over five seconds.
RETWEET to congratulate @CBellRacing!
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“That one was much-needed right there,” Bell said of his second career win. “I’ll tell you what that was a hell of a race from my viewpoint. That was so much fun racing with the No. 45 [Kurt Busch], the No. 22 [Joey Logano], and the No. 9 [Elliott]. We were all running different lines. That was a blast.
“I’m just so happy; so happy to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing, all our partners on this No. 20 car. It’s good to get Rheem back in victory lane.”
Elliott finished second after leading 13 laps. Bubba Wallace finished third, pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth and Kevin Harvick finished fifth.
Truex dominated the race with a sweep of both stages and a race-high 172 laps led, but he got buried in the pack on two tires when Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Cole Custer stayed out under the final caution. After falling back to 11th and saying his Toyota wouldn’t go anywhere, Truex was able to drive back into the top five.
He ultimately led 160 of the first 185 laps. The only lead change in the first two stages came when Truex led the leaders down pit road and Logano was among a handful of drivers who stayed out.
Denny Hamlin finished sixth, Brad Keselowski seventh, Ross Chastain eighth, Daniel Suarez ninth, and Kurt Busch completed the top 10.
Kyle Busch finished 12th after spinning twice on his own. The first spin was on lap 78, coming off Turn 2, and the second was on lap 163, off Turn 4. Both times, Busch avoided contact.
All six Toyota drivers finished inside the top 12.
There were nine cautions Sunday afternoon and eight lead changes among seven drivers.
“Winning Cup races is hard,” Bell said. “It just seems like we’ve been so close and then we’ve fallen off a little bit last week. I was talking to my best friend, and I told him earlier in the year…I felt like we were right on the verge of winning, and then the last couple of weeks I felt like we were pretty far away, but here we are today.”