Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Holds Off Chase Elliott, Others for New Hampshire Win

After settling for second in this race last year, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell scored his first Loudon victory, his first Cup Series win of 2022 and the second of his career Sunday (July 17) in the Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. With the win, Bell has likely locked up a spot in the playoffs with six races remaining in the regular season.

It was a tale of two races at the Magic Mile. The opening two stages saw some chaos in the middle of the pack, but nobody could get close to Martin Truex Jr. for the race lead. But a caution for Todd Gilliland’s spin with just under 100 laps to go set up three disparate strategies among the race leaders, triggering a no-holds-barred battle over the final hundred laps. 

Kurt Busch and Joey Logano gambled, staying out to take the front row. Truex and Kevin Harvick were the first on two tires, while Bell, Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace took four. 

It soon became clear that the four-tire stop was the way to go, as Elliott and Bell clawed their way to the front. Elliott shoved his way past Joey Logano on lap 243, and by lap 247 put another aggressive on leader Kurt Busch, with Bell shadowing his every move. 

Once clear into second, Bell waited for Elliott to burn off his rear tires. On lap 260, he made his move. 

Bell didn’t look back, leading the rest of the way to score his first win of 2022, becoming the 14th different winner in the Cup Series this season.

Speaking to NBC Sports on the frontstretch, Bell said, “Man, that one was much needed right there. 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, the [No.] 22 and [No.] 9. We were all running different lines. That was a blast.”

“Same conversation as Road America,” said a disappointed Elliott from pit road, after finishing the race in second. “I felt like just a poor run of execution on my end throughout that last run. . . it took me a while to get past Joey [Logano] and the [No.] 45 and had to run a little harder than I wanted to and then got in front of those guys and just made a couple mistakes. . . Just poor effort on my part.

Bubba Wallace came home third, the 23XI Racing driver’s best result since February. Truex and Harvick recovered to fourth and fifth place, respectively, after ending up on the slower strategy in the last stage. Denny Hamlin was sixth at the checkered flag, and Brad Keselowski scored his best finish of the season with seventh. The Trackhouse Racing Team duo of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez ended their relatively quiet afternoons in eighth and ninth, and Kurt Busch was 10th despite an additional pit stop in the final stage.

After a summer storm very briefly delayed the start of pre-race festivities, polesitter Truex led every lap of the first stage to deliver his sixth stage win of 2022, the most of all drivers. 

For Ty Dillon and Alex Bowman, the race was over almost as soon as it started. The two crashed hard on the exit of turn 2 on just the fifth lap of the race. Dillon got to the inside of Justin Haley at the center of turns 1 and 2, and contact between them sent the No. 42 spinning in front of Bowman’s No. 48, also collecting BJ McLeod and Josh Bilicki. 

After having harsh words for Dillon over team radio, Bowman spoke to NBC outside the infield care center, saying  “We qualified bad, and you’re back there with a bunch of people you don’t want to be around. … [No.] 42 overcorrected and just shot us into the fence.”

Though it was once again Truex who got the green-and-white checkered flag in stage two, New Hampshire Motor Speedway reached out and bit a number of teams during its 115 laps. 

One week on from making headlines in Atlanta, Corey LaJoie was running a lap down in the back of the pack on lap 89 when a transaxle issue sent him spinning into Harrison Burton and Michael McDowell. 

“[The No. 7 car] got hung in between fourth and third on the downshift” said LaJoie, “literally locked both rear tires up so they weren’t turning.”

Aric Almirola also experienced transaxle problems. After losing every gear but third, the defending New Hampshire winner spent a long time behind the wall, eliminating him from contention.

Kyle Busch’s recent struggles continued into Loudon, as the two-time champion qualified only 17th and couldn’t move forward in the first stage. His day got worse, as driver No. 18 spun out twice in the second stage. After working his way back into the top 10 in stage three, Busch was 12th at the checkered flag.

That second spin brought out a caution that saw this game of bumper cars between Austin Dillon and Keselowski.

Entering the New Hampshire weekend on the bubble, Bell’s win puts Truex on the playoff cutline, 68 points ahead of Harvick with Almirola a further 61 back. Truex and Ryan Blaney, scored third and fourth in regular season points, are the only two drivers in the playoffs on points with six regular season races remaining.

2022 Cup Series New Hampshire Results

Playoff Standings after New Hampshire

Regular Season Points after New Hampshire

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Northeast for the M&Ms Fan Appreciation 400 from Pocono Raceway next Sunday, July 24, airing at 3 p.m. Eastern on USA.

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Echo

Nice feel good win for me .

DoninAjax

You’d probably feel the same if Kurt had won but not for any of the other Reverend Joe drivers.

TiminPayson

I don’t like these cars on short tracks. Your either right off the trailer or out of the park all race.

DoninAjax

That is what is wrong with “one size fits all.” They want a short track car, an intermediate track car, a super-speedway car and a dirt car. What they wound up with is a POS that is useless on all of them. But try telling the brain trust that as they try to tweak it and tell everyone how great it is.

DoninAjax

The first TV time out lasted laps 71-77 (7 laps) and took 8 minutes. The second lasted laps 186-192 (7 laps) and took 8:15. I guess the tower told Truex he didn’t slow down fast enough for the first time-out.

johndawgchapman

Here’s what jumped out at me. Even though Truex dominated the first 2 stages. There was plenty of passing back in the pack to keep things interesting.

But, & as Pee Wee Herman said, “everyone has a big but.”

We’re deep into the season, yet we’re still seeing steering, & shifting problems. And for the second week, another lost tire, even though this one appeared to have been the jackman’s fault.

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