Joe Gibbs Racing experienced both sides of the racing fate coin on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
On a positive note, Gibbs was indeed celebrating with Christopher Bell. Bell notched his second career NASCAR Cup Series win in the Ambetter 301, potentially earning him his second consecutive playoff berth. Bell and the No.20 Toyota team executed a flawless race and final stage to capitalize on four fresh tires to drive to the front and around Chase Elliott.
“Christopher, we really, in a lot of ways, held him back during the year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “There are things that happened when he could have won races.
“Seeing a young guy like that win a race today, I think really says a lot about him and his team. Adam [Stevens, crew chief], too. I shouldn’t have left Adam out. He really does a great job of guiding things at our race shop and making decisions like that.
“That car was not very good when we started the race. That’s the other thing. That car was kind of middle of the pack and struggling. I think it says a lot about Adam and the team and everybody just kept fighting and in the end, they got him going in the right direction.”
Bell is the third Gibbs driver to have won a race this season, the organization having four wins in 2022. But as great as it was for Bell, it came at the expense of a teammate.
Martin Truex Jr. dominated Sunday’s race. Truex swept both stages and led 172 laps. But two tires on his final pit stop doomed the No.19 team as Truex got stuck in traffic when the restart didn’t fall his way. Truex faded to 11th at one point during the race’s final stint before climbing back to fourth.
It was a day of what could have been. Truex is not only still winless but, with Bell triumphing, has been pushed to the playoff cutline. It was a position Bell had been in going into the day. Truex has a 68-point margin on Kevin Harvick with six races left in the regular season.
“I’m very nervous about it,” Gibbs said. “I think all of us. I don’t think any of us would have dreamed when the year started, we would have 14 winners at this point. Yeah that’s why we were pulling so hard for him to get it and then, of course, Christopher was in pretty much the same boat.
“Thank goodness Christopher was able to get it done, but we’ve got to give Martin everything we can give him because we need that car. We need it in the playoffs that’s for sure.”
All four Gibbs drivers qualified for the playoffs last season.