Chastain Rides The Rim Into Final Four, Bell Rings It For The Win

Martinsville was a must win situation for several drivers this weekend and none more than Christopher Bell who was the furthest back in points coming into the race. Once again, Bell rose to the occasion and won another win or go home race. His win sets the final four drivers heading to the championship race at Phoenix.

Those four are Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott. Of the four, Bell is the only two-time playoff winner and only Chastain has yet to win a race in the playoffs, but it isn’t for a lack of trying especially at Martinsville.

In a move that will be talked about for years to come, Chastain drove his car hard into the corner pinning his car up against the wall and banging on and off the wall through turns 3 and 4 to get by Denny Hamlin and into the final four (video can be found here if you missed it).

It was a crazy high risk, high reward video racing move that several drivers thought was a black eye to the sport while Hamlin called it ‘brilliant.’ Kyle Larson called the move ‘embarrassing’ at the same time admitting he was embarrassed to have pulled off a similar move. Add to it the fact that Larson has been guilty of a couple of bone headed dive bombs this year and he has no room to call out Chastain.

Like it or not, the move pushed Chastain past Hamlin and into the playoffs and that is what the drivers get paid for. If Hamlin hadn’t lost so many positions on pit road in the closing laps, perhaps he would be running for a title and Chastain’s move might not have even occurred.

Heading to Phoenix it will be hard to pick a favorite for the title. Chastain has finished out of the Top 5 only twice in the two final rounds and had two Top 10 finishes in Round 1. That’s a record that is hard to match. Bell has pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat twice when it came down to it. Logano and Elliott are two veteran champions who both have Phoenix wins and will be hard to beat, but this season’s playoffs have been anything but predictable.

From Chase Briscoe to Kevin Harvick to Kyle Larson, every driver on the track will be aiming to win the race and steal some thunder from these championship four.

Penalized

Brad Keselowski had a great race going at Martinsville but his car was found to be underweight in post-race inspection. How the car passed the initial inspection and failed post-race will probably be the main question as RFK Racing appeals the penalty. The penalty drops him to last in the finishing order and wipes out all points he gained in the race.

Soon to be penalized?

The Infinity race was marred by fisticuffs between Austin Hill and Myatt Snider. NASCAR is reviewing the video of the fight that showed Hill punching Snider hard. Given the state of the sport right now, I fully expect penalties to be set down.

And in another racing incident, the Infinity Race also saw Ty Gibbs take out teammate Brandon Jones on the way to the championship four race. Joe Gibbs Racing was looking like it might have two cars in the final race but Ty Gibbs’ aggression took out Jones and while Gibbs advances, he did so at a huge cost for his organization. Gibb’s may maintain he didn’t intend to spin out his teammate, I am not sure what he thought was going to happen. And while this was not a retaliation move such as occurred between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson, it sure caught the attention of fans and media alike wondering just how NASCAR is going to explain the difference if there are no penalties levied.

Champion for 2022…

It is entirely possible that the winner of the race will not be the series champ and I am going with that prediction. On the surface, the race leans slightly to Joey Logano but aside from each of the past wins, the two have not performed all that well. Ross Chastain finished second in the spring race and has been the best overall finishing driver through the last two rounds. Christopher Bell has found magic in the bottle when he needed it.

My pick for the 2022 champion is Ross Chastain. He has shown the hunger it requires to be champion and I don’t see that abating this week. Logano and Elliott are both contenders but they will really have to step it up to beat the mojo Chastain has right now. Bell could do it but he has been the most inconsistent team in spite of winning two playoff races.

Who do you have?  Leave your predictions in the comments below.

My other articles can be found right here.

(Featured Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images/NASCAR Media)

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