NASCAR: Christopher Bell wins at Charlotte, reaches playoff Round of 8
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Haley completed the top five.
Christopher Bell gambled on tires late, won in overtime and advanced to the NASCAR Cup Series' next playoff round in Sunday's Bank of America Roval 400 in Concord, N.C.
On the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course's Roval layout, Bell -- running seventh and needing a win in the elimination race to move to the Round of 8 -- pitted for tires on the third caution with two laps to go when a sign fell off a wall and into the racing groove.
At the time, Chase Elliott was in position to cruise to his sixth win of 2022. However, Bell's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota -- on fresher rubber -- moved to second after a messy restart and another caution.
Running second to Kevin Harvick, he blew by the No. 4 Ford in the first turn on the final restart and kept his championship hopes alive with his second win of 2022.
"I saw there were 11 cars that stayed out on old tires and we were the first ones with new tires," said Bell, who stayed in front of a big wreck in Turn 1 for the winning pass. "My spotter did an amazing job. They all started wrecking and he said to stay tight to the middle.
"You've just got to be there to the end of these things. We were there at the right time. We rolled the dice and gambled and it paid off for us."
Harvick, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Haley completed the top five.
In the elimination race, three active drivers -- Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Bell -- gridded below the cut line along with Alex Bowman (concussion), who missed his second consecutive race after a hard crash at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
However, Briscoe benefitted from the misfortunes of Daniel Suarez and 2021 Cup champion Kyle Larson and moved into the top eight to maintain his championship hopes.
Larson developed problems late in the race and finished 35th. That eliminated him by just two points, trailing Briscoe for the eighth spot. Suarez missed out by nine points, while Cindric spun at the end and was short by 13 points.
Inside the final five laps of Stage 2, the leaders opted to pit and set up a strategy to win the race rather than claim the 25-lap stage's points. Ross Chastain grabbed the bonus points, as did playoff competitors Larson, Suarez, Joey Logano, Briscoe, Ryan Blaney and Elliott.
Early in the race's second half, Suarez developed a power-steering problem, forcing him to wrestle with the handling on his No. 99 Chevrolet and sliding the driver below the cut line.
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