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Race report

NASCAR Cup Charlotte: Bell keeps playoff hopes alive with Roval win

Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Christopher Bell secured his place in the semifinal round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a vital win in overtime at the Charlotte Roval.

Bell's only chance of advancing to the next round of playoffs was winning, but that possibility didn’t seem likely until a pair of late-race cautions turned Sunday’s race upside down.

During a caution for debris on lap 105 of the scheduled 109-lap race, Bell pitted for new tyres. On the ensuing restart, A.J. Allmendinger's Kaulig Chevrolet passed 2019 and 2020 roval winner Chase Elliott for the lead before Kevin Harvick did the same thing to Allmendinger.

Just before Harvick was going to take the white flag to start the final lap, another caution was displayed for damage to the backstretch chicane. That sent the race into a two-lap overtime, with Harvick in the lead but Bell on the much fresher tyres in second.

Bell powered around Harvick entering Turn 1 on the start of overtime and hung on for the victory by 1.790 seconds over Harvick, JGR team-mate Kyle Busch and Allmendinger in fourth. 

The win is the second of the year for Bell, who secured his playoff place with victory at New Hampshire in July, and the third of his career.

“I came off pit road and I was the first car with (new) tyres. I was just trying to wait and see how I stacked up,” said Bell, the top performing driver in the first round of the playoffs before falling into trouble in the first two races of the second round at Texas and Talladega.

“Then I saw there were 11 cars that stayed out on old tyres. I just said, ‘We’ll roll the dice here and see what happens.’

“You just got to be there at the end of these things. I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. It’s been no secret that road courses have not been our strength this year but we were just there at the right time.

“We obviously weren’t in position to win, we rolled the dice and gambled and it paid off for us.”

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, DeWalt Toyota Camry

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, DeWalt Toyota Camry

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Joining Bell in the playoff's final eight drivers for the semifinal round are Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe.

Reigning series champion Kyle Larson was among the four drivers eliminated from further title contention after being forced to pit under green with a broken toe link which required extended repairs. He was joined by Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman, who missed his second consecutive race with concussion symptoms.

The opening stage was won by poleman Logano, who went on to finish 18th, ahead of Byron.

Allmendinger came on strong in the second stage, surging into the lead for the first time on lap 31 from Tyler Reddick's , but pitted before the end of the stage as Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Chevrolet) stayed out to collect the points.

Chastain dropped out of the running in the third stage after hitting the wall and coming into the garage area for repairs.

At that point, with 20 laps to go, Elliott’s lead over Reddick had grown to 4.7 seconds as Allmendinger ran third and Harvick fourth.

But Reddick's challenge was hampered on lap 95 when he missed the backstretch chicane and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty.

NASCAR displayed a caution for debris on the track – a sign that was knocked on the track and run over by Suarez - on lap 105, which prompted several lead-lap cars to pit. Bell was the first off pit road, while Elliott remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on lap 107.

Allmendinger and Elliott tangled entering Turn 1, with Allmendinger briefly grabbing the lead before Harvick muscled Allmendinger out of the way and escaped with the lead. Shortly after that, Elliott got knocked off course in Turn 6 by Reddick.

Daly made his Cup debut and finished 34th

Daly made his Cup debut and finished 34th

Photo by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images

With one lap to go, NASCAR threw a caution for damage to the kerbs in the backstretch chicane to send the race into a two-lap overtime, allowing Bell to make his critical pass on Harvick.

Justin Haley finished fifth, as Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Reddick, Briscoe and Dillon completed the top 10.

IndyCar racer Conor Daly finished 34th on his NASCAR Cup debut in the #50 TMT Racing Chevrolet, while former GP3 sparring partner Daniil Kvyat was an early retirement with engine problems in his #26 Team Hezeberg Toyota and classified 39th.

NASCAR Cup Charlotte Roval - Race Results (112 laps)

Cla Driver Manufacturer Time Gap
1 United States Christopher Bell Toyota 2:59'54.010  
2 United States Kevin Harvick Ford 2:59'55.800 1.790
3 United States Kyle Busch Toyota 2:59'55.986 1.976
4 United States A.J. Allmendinger Chevrolet 2:59'57.146 3.136
5 United States Justin Haley Chevrolet 2:59'58.645 4.635
6 United States Chris Buescher Ford 2:59'58.984 4.974
7 United States Bubba Wallace Toyota 2:59'59.452 5.442
8 United States Tyler Reddick Chevrolet 3:00'00.849 6.839
9 United States Chase Briscoe Ford 3:00'00.983 6.973
10 United States Austin Dillon Chevrolet 3:00'02.339 8.329
11 United States Erik Jones Chevrolet 3:00'02.726 8.716
12 United States Corey Lajoie Chevrolet 3:00'02.900 8.890
13 United States Denny Hamlin Toyota 3:00'03.158 9.148
14 United States Brad Keselowski Ford 3:00'03.422 9.412
15 United States Aric Almirola Ford 3:00'04.055 10.045
16 United States William Byron Chevrolet 3:00'04.649 10.639
17 United States Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 3:00'05.161 11.151
18 United States Joey Logano Ford 3:00'05.843 11.833
19 United States Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Chevrolet 3:00'10.063 16.053
20 United States Chase Elliott Chevrolet 3:00'10.819 16.809
21 United States Austin Cindric Ford 3:00'12.870 18.860
22 Ty Gibbs Toyota 3:00'13.034 19.024
23 United States Noah Gragson Chevrolet 3:00'14.716 20.706
24 United States Cole Custer Ford 3:00'24.538 30.528
25 United States Ty Dillon Chevrolet 3:00'25.688 31.678
26 United States Ryan Blaney Ford 3:00'27.931 33.921
27 United States Michael McDowell Ford 3:00'41.169 47.159
28 United States Harrison Burton Ford 3:00'09.512 1 Lap
29 Germany Mike Rockenfeller Chevrolet 3:00'14.092 1 Lap
30 United States Todd Gilliland Ford 3:00'23.406 1 Lap
31 United States Josh Williams Ford 3:00'08.858 2 Laps
32 United States J.J. Yeley Ford 3:00'13.778 2 Laps
33 Netherlands Loris Hezemans Ford 3:00'17.880 2 Laps
34 United States Conor Daly Chevrolet 3:00'19.207 3 Laps
35 United States Kyle Larson Chevrolet 3:00'07.994 5 Laps
36 Mexico Daniel Suarez Chevrolet 3:00'17.637 5 Laps
37 United States Ross Chastain Chevrolet 3:00'45.725 9 Laps
38 United States Joey Hand Ford 2:04'50.705 33 Laps
39 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat Toyota 24'31.228 95 Laps

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