AUSTIN, Texas – Christopher Bell learned his lesson.
A week after the NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver explained his view of the penalty that negated his second-place finish.
Bell was penalized by NASCAR for advancing his position by passing Ross Chastain below the double line at the bottom of Atlanta’s backstretch on the last lap.
Instead of earning his first top-five finish of the season, Bell was scored in 23rd, the last car on the lead lap.
Bell called it a “judgement call” by NASCAR and even admitted that a head-on camera angle of his move “looked bad for me.”
However, Bell never anticipated the penalty occurring.
“I didn’t feel in a million years in the heat of the moment that I would be black flagged for passing below the line because I got inside of him before I went beneath the line,” Bell said Saturday (March 26) at Circuit of the Americas. “I felt very for sure that I got forced below the line. Looking back at it, next time my hands are staying straight.”
Bell then referenced another notable instance of a the double line rule being enforced.
Justin Haley had it happen to him in the summer 2018 Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Haley had a race win taken from him after he dove beneath the line to pass Kyle Larson coming to the checkered flag.
“I remember watching (a) video I think Justin Haley he said the same thing, that the lines there and he’s not moving the steering wheel and whatever happens happens,” Bell said. “So I guess the lesson learned on my part. Next time in that case, I’m holding my wheel straight, I’m not going to be the guy moving.”
Bell, who enter’s this weekend race in Austin 29th in points, was asked if he thought the backstretch at the reconfigured Atlanta should be widened at all. The straightaway was narrowed from 55 feet to 42 feet.
“Maybe? The problem is is that the corners are narrow, right?” Bell said. “So you can’t give us too much room on the straightaway and then have to funnel into the corners. But with that being said, no matter where they put the line, that’s where we’re gonna go. So if you give us 100 more feet of back straightaway length then that same predicament is going to happen. We’re just gonna be 100 feet further down.”
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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