Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell’s Winning Chances Go Awry With Pit Road Mistakes, Late Crash

LOUDON, N.H. – Martin Truex Jr. finally won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and was almost untouchable through the afternoon, leading 254 of the 301 laps in Monday’s (July 17) Crayon 301.

See also
Martin Truex Jr. Wins 3rd Cup Race of Season With New Hampshire Victory

But if it wasn’t for early pit road mistakes and a late crash, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell might’ve been right there with him.

Bell won the pole in NASCAR Cup Series qualifying on Saturday (July 15), and with his past record at New Hampshire, he unquestionably entered Monday as one of the favorites.

Truex was right behind him on the outside pole. With practice and qualifying in the books, the race looked to be a battle between the two Toyota heavy weights.

After leading the first lap, Bell slotted behind Truex in second. He was the only one to keep in touch with the No. 19 car, but it only took 30 laps for the day to unravel for the No. 20 team.

First, it was losing eight spots on pit road during the competition caution. Bell made his way back to sixth by the end of the first stage, but he had to pit for a second time under the stage caution for a loose wheel.

Bell showcased the speed of his No. 20 car at the start of stage two, as he quickly made up all the ground he had lost on pit road.

From the midpoint of the race on, Bell hovered between sixth to 10th on the scoring pylon. He looked to be out of winning contention until Noah Gragson brought out a caution with 30 laps to go.

The No. 20 team called for four tires, and Bell was starting to make his way through the field until his day effectively ended after slamming the wall with 13 laps to go.

What caused the wreck?

“Yeah, just got loose over the bumps and spun out,” Bell said.

While the day ended with a disappointing 29th-place finish, Bell was able to acknowledge how fast his car was.

“Yeah, I mean, it feels good to have good car potential,” Bell said. “We’ve had good car potential the last couple of weeks, so hopefully we can keep that going.”

While Truex ran away by leading nearly 85% of the race, Bell was not far behind him on the first run. Did he think he had a chance at battling the No. 19 car throughout the afternoon?

“I was right there with him while we were up front. Guess that’s all I know.”

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Why does it seem that the speed with which the caution flag flies is based on how much time is left in the telecast? It seemed that if the “control tower” saw smoke or dust or a car starting to spin the yellow lights came on.

Bubba should put the 43 on his Christmas card list.

Carl D.

Truex’s run makes it hard to tell if the tweaks to the short track package helped the racing any or not. I wasn’t overly impressed, but Marty stunk up the field so bad that it was hard to get overly excited about the actual racing.

Last edited 10 months ago by Carl D.
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