As the second race of the season came to a close, it was ultimately Christopher Bell that bested the rest of the 40-car field. The win marks his first win in the Cup series, and it was only his second race with his new team of Joe Gibbs Racing.
The win also locked Bell into the NASCAR playoffs. Notably, Michael McDowell is the only other driver guaranteed a spot to compete for the 2021 championship title, as his win last week at Daytona secured his place. It is both drivers’ first chance at the title.
“This is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far. I’m just so incredibly grateful to be here with Joe Gibbs Racing,” Bell said of his first win.
Ahead of Bell claiming the checkered flag, there laid 70 laps around the 14-turn road course, and it was Chase Elliott who led the field to green from the pole position. This starting spot was determined based on NASCAR’s new formula to set the starting lineup. The calculation includes: owner points, the fastest lap from the race prior, the car owner’s finishing position from the most recent race, and the driver’s finish in the preceding race.
Elliott remained in the lead as the first caution came out on lap two for debris. During the caution, Kyle Busch and Michael McDowell both came down pit road to work on their damaged vehicles. Once back under green, Chase Briscoe spun and retained some damage. No caution flew for the spin. Matt DiBenedetto, Erik Jones, and Brad Keselowski all suffered flat tires under green. Debris from these cars caused the yellow flag to wave with five to go in the stage. After 16 laps of competition, the first stage of the race came to a close. It was ultimately Elliott that was able to capture the stage one win.
The yellow flag made another appearance after 27 laps of competition for Ross Chastain, who was twentieth at the time. Just a few laps later, stage two ended with Denny Hamlin claiming the ten championship points associated with the stage victory.
Though Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola both had single-car spins during the final stage, there was no caution thrown for these incidents, as both drivers were able to continue. The sixth caution of the day flew with 14 to go for rain. With 12 laps to go, another caution came out for Tyler Reddick. Just two laps later, another yellow flag appeared for an incident in which Martin Truex Jr. sustained damage.
At the end of the 250-mile event, Joey Logano trailed Bell by two seconds. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski made up the remainder of the top-five.
The Cup series will be back in action next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Be sure to tune into FOX for all the racing coverage Sunday, February 28 at 3:30 PM ET.
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