AVONDALE, Ariz. — Christopher Bell’s second Championship 4 appearance ended before it even began.
Bell and the No. 20 team started the NASCAR Cup Series’ 2023 finale at Phoenix Raceway in 13th, and they slowly climbed their way up to eighth in the first 60 laps of stage one.
Bell had worked his way up to sixth by lap 100, but his race — and championship hopes — went up in brake smoke as the No. 20 car lost a rotor out of turn 4 on lap 109.
The car was totaled and Bell headed to the garage for a 36th-place finish. His crash means that both Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota will leave Phoenix without a championship trophy.
“We blew a right-front brake rotor part and pounded the fence,” said Bell’s crew chief Adam Stevens.
“[Bell] said he was having a little bit of [brake] fade earlier in the run and, I mean, we didn’t have any tape on the right front brakes, so there’s nothing we were going to do. We tried to have him move the bias to the rear and back his entry up, and just two laps later, it blew apart.”
“Yeah, I did [have a warning], the pedals were getting longer and longer,” Bell said.
The brake failure was the first of the season for the No. 20 team, and it was a shocking development at a track like Phoenix.
“We’ve had really strong brakes all year long and haven’t had any issues,” Bell said. “So, it’s quite surprising to have a brake issue at a track where they are important but not as important as some of the others.
“I’m proud of the effort in the playoffs to make the final four, but we left a lot on the table, you know, during the regular season, and I still don’t think that we performed up to our potential in 2023. So, I’m excited about the future and trying to build on this and become better.
Although a disappointing ending in the Cup Series’ final race of the season, Bell kept his head up high.
“I’m not upset,” Bell said. “Everyone’s trying their hardest. … I’m still probably a little shocked and it probably hasn’t sunk in yet. But you can only change what’s ahead of you.”
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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