In Cup Series Must-Win Situation, Christopher (Rings The) Bell!

Christopher Bell was in a must win situation entering the Charlotte Roval and his team delivered with a fresh tire call that helped push him past leader Kevin Harvick.

That win plus an unfortunate smack of the wall eliminated reigning champ Kyle Larson.

The finish of the race also saw Chase Briscoe gain enough positions to eliminate Austin Cindric but the move by teammate Cole Custer is under review by NASCAR and it is possible that any official action could change that outcome. As the race was in its final laps in overtime, it appeared that Custer slowed up and bunched the field to allow Briscoe to gain enough positions to move him into the Round of Eight ahead of Cindric.

The race was relatively calm and featured a lot of green flag racing and talk of points. Did you hear about points being needed at all? Lots of talk about points. And while that points talk was certainly getting boring, the race eventually played out exactly because of accumulated and lost points.

Kyle Larson hit the wall and wound up several laps down for repairs.

Stage 2 winner Ross Chastain had the rear toe knocked out during a race incident that cost him plenty of positions.

Daniel Suarez lost his power steering that cost him a transfer position, not to mention his late on track beef with Cory LaJoie.

Joey Logano led much of the early race winning Stage 1 but race strategy saw many of the early leaders wind up behind other cars in Stage 2. A whole new set of drivers were leading at the end of Stage 2 and then the strategy race was on with Chase Elliott leading for much of the final stage until a caution came out with just a few laps remaining.

And that is when the wheels came off.

Instead of a clean battle for the lead between Elliott and AJ Allmendinger, we got Tyler Reddick losing his mind and punting Elliott into the grass. I guess that was the signal that anything goes because every corner saw bunched up cars running two and three wide into chicanes and drivers spinning everywhere – with no caution since it was a road course.

Drivers who were running 15th or worse and had no shot at winning or advancing into the playoffs were suddenly driving through other drivers who had something on the line. What ensued looked like amateur hour in the ARCA series.

NASCAR needs to do something about this madness at the end of the road courses. You can’t have 30 cars try to enter a tight turn and have them all go 4-wide, it just won’t end well and isn’t good racing. At Indy and Charlotte, the first turn is really tight coming off of a fast straight away and usually ends in a massive wreck to either start the race, a la F1, or at the end of a race when half the drivers lose any ounce of professionalism they had.

It’s just a clown show.

And obviously the drivers are incapable of policing this themselves so NASCAR needs to have a sit down with the drivers, especially the younger ones.

Good on ya, mate

  • Christopher Bell (P1) for a clutch win
  • Kevin Harvick (P2) who nearly stole the show
  • Kyle Busch (P3) for coming from deep in the field and avoiding the madness
  • AJ Allmendinger (P4) for nearly winning and sweeping the weekend
  • Justin Haley (P5) for a decent finish
  • Chris Buescher (P6) had another good finish for RFK
  • Bubba Wallace (P7) had issues early but managed a good finish

In the doghouse

  • Tyler Reddick (P8) really ticked off Chase Elliott. That won’t end well for him.
  • Chase Briscoe (P9) might lose some points if NASCAR finds team collusion
  • Cole Custer (P24) might bring the ire of NASCAR and cause his teammate to lose what he worked so hard to get

So you had a bad day

  • Ross Chastain (P37) is still above the cut line thanks to stage points
  • Daniel Suarez (P36) had steering issues that kept him from advancing
  • Kyle Larson (P35) smacked the wall and cost him big time
  • Ryan Blaney (P26) had a lot to say about his fellow drivers losing their minds
  • Chase Elliott (P20) led 30 laps but got punted by Reddick and was in no mood to have a camera in his face afterwards

Next up: Las Vegas

Las Vegas has seen a lot of different drivers win the last 6 races with Alex Bowman as the spring race winner and Denny Hamlin as the defending race winner. While Kyle Larson is the highest rated driver, Joey Logano has two wins with no one else having more than one since Feb. 2019. Two of those winners, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch, are both out with concussions.

It certainly feels like a race that could see a Chevy in victory lane since Chevy swept the top three position this spring and seven of the Top 11 spots. While is not Chase Elliott’s best track, he has been arguably the most consistent Hendrick driver. He should be able to get a Top 10.

Joey Logano has been one of the fastest Fords lately but he missed the Top 10 in three of the last four Vegas races. Ryan Blaney really needs a win but this is just an average track for him. He’ll need a Top 10 to stay in the hunt.

Kyle Busch has three Top 5 finishes in the last three races and his teammate Hamlin won this race in 2021 but suffered a mechanical failure this spring.

This could be a rebound race for Larson but he needs to show speed he can sustain all race long – and not have any more mental errors like he had at the Roval and Indy. Martin Truex, Jr. has been the odd man out at Gibbs this season so a win for him would be a fresh take. I’d handicap those two as dark horses.

Check out my other columns here.

Watch for any penalties this week. Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up folks.  Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)

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