With his first win of the season, Christopher Bell made it increasingly hard for Kevin Harvick to make the playoffs. Bell has been a contender in several races this season but just hasn’t had the car or strategy to pull it off. This time was different.
He and Chase Elliott were on a similar strategy but he was able to driver past Elliott after Elliott had trouble passing then leader Kurt Busch. Busch was going to have to pit for fuel no matter what but forced Elliott to use up more of his car than Bell who was in third at the time. Once Elliott assumed the lead, Bell was right there and was able to take advantage of Elliott and led the final 42 laps.
Bell is solidly in the playoffs right now with Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Blaney as the only two drivers in the Top 10 without a win. Truex was the pole sitter and won both Stage 1 and 2 plus led the most laps. But a bad two tire change put him in traffic and he couldn’t get away from the aero issue he had after that.
In spite of his Top 5 this weekend, Harvick slides further from playoff contention with each passing race. The team has shown a bit more speed as of late and there are still 6 races left before the playoffs start so grabbing a win is still possible. But one out of six instead of one out of 26 makes things a just a bit more tense.
And speaking of tense, what would the previous week been without the biggest Silly Season announcement with Tyler Reddick leaving RCR to join 23xi racing in 2024. Add to that Ty Dillon is leaving Petty GMS at the end of this season and the potential that Aric Almirola may NOT retire at the end of this season and whew, you have a string of what ifs already for 2022.
Oh, and as long as we are on things being tense, who wants to be in the room when Brad Keselowski and Austin Dillon chat about their brush up at New Hampshire. That was more than just a little rubbing on each other. That was “Oh yeah? Well I don’t like the way you are racing me either so take THAT!”
Good on ya, mate
- Christopher Bell (P1) for finally putting together a full race.
- Chase Elliott (P2) for his fourth Top 2 finish in a row.
- Bubba Wallace (P3) didn’t lead any laps but charged hard all race long.
- Martin Truex, Jr. (P4) led 172 laps but none when it really, really mattered.
- Kevin Harvick (P5) got a nice stat but needs a win.
- Denny Hamlin (P6) got a little bumper payback on the number one.
- Brad Keselowski (P7) from one of his best finishes of the year. And for a great post-race interview with water running down his chin.
- Ross Chastain (P8) for driving as hard as he does every lap.
- Daniel Suarez (P9) for another Top 10.
- Kurt Busch (P10) led 40 laps and drives hard in spite of not knowing what his future holds.
- AJ Allmendinger (P16) is warming up for Watkins Glen.
So you had a bad day
- Alex Bowman (P35) got caught up in an early wreck.
- Aric Almirola (P31) didn’t have the speed his boss had.
- Joey Logano (P24) led 25 laps but had the wrong race strategy.
- Austin Dillon (P23) has to be frustrated with himself. Maybe concentrate more on racing and less on bad reality TV.
- Ryan Blaney (P18) really needs a win to feel good about the final 10 races.
Next up: Pocono
Three of the next four races are road courses or tracks that drive like a road course, in this case, Pocono, The Tricky Triangle. This race requires the perfect balance of…imperfect. You have to give a little to get a lot at this track. This has been Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing’s playground as of late. Alex Bowman and Kevin Harvick have won here but Kyle Busch is the defending race winner and he and Denny Hamlin have 2 wins each in the past 6 Pocono races.
This is no longer the Pocono double header so you have just one race to figure it out with the new car and set up. Pocono can have some long green flag racing so the teams that can adjust on the fly will have the advantage. In recent history, the winner USUALLY leads 30 or more laps on their way to victory with the two outliers being, you guessed it, Harvick and Bowman. But still, there haven’t been any recent single digit late race leaders who win at Pocono. It’s really not a short set up kind of track. I’ll put my money on one of the current race winners to take the checkers this weekend.
Featured photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images/NASCAR Media
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