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NASCAR Cup: Christopher Bell wins on Daytona road course

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 21: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway on February 21, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Christopher Bell became a NASCAR Cup Series winner Sunday after taking the checkered flag in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the Dayton (Fla.) International Speedway road course. Bell’s first-career Cup Series win came in his 38th-career race, his second in the series for Joe Gibbs Racing.

“This is definitely one of the highlights of my life, so far. I’m just so incredibly thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing with all of our partners – Rheem, DeWalt, Pristine Auction, Toyota, TRD,” Bell said. “Thank you to Jack Irving and Tyler Gibbs. You guys believed in me since day one. It feels like I’ve prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series. Last year was a huge learning curve for me, and I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to run in Cup. It definitely prepared me to move for Joe Gibbs Racing.”

Bell took his race-winning lead when he passed Joey Logano as the two drivers approached the white flag.

“Whenever we pitted and then we came out, I liked where we lined up, but then, the yellows kept coming, and I thought the yellows were hurting me, because I felt like I needed laps to get back up through there,” Bell said. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get there, but Adam (Stevens, crew chief) up on the pit box kept telling me I was going to get there. I didn’t believe it, but he (Logano) really struggled coming out of (turn) six one time and allowed me to close the gap. I just wish my wife was here to celebrate with me.”

Bell’s Gibbs teammate Denny Hamlin finished third, giving JGR two finishes inside the top-three. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.

Logano had been the race leader since the yellow flag waved for the sixth time with 15 laps remaining when rain dampened part of the race track. The weather-related caution presented teams with the option of going to wet-weather tires. but the rain stopped as the caution came out and only a portion of the track was slightly wet, so cars that pitted received a new set of dry-weather slicks. Logano was among 11 drivers who stayed out during the caution to restart as the leader.

 “We gambled by staying out and then I’d say it paid off overall, but you just hate being so close and one lap away,” Logano said. He (Bell) started catching me a second a lap and it wasn’t like I blew any corners or anything, he was just faster.  We just got beat, plain and simple.  We’ve got to get our long run speed faster.  We made some gains and gotten better with our Shell/Pennzoil Mustang.  We’ve just got to be able to find a way to keep our rear tires on these things on the road courses.  We’ve identified the issue, now we can go to work.”

Bell’s win ended Elliott’s streak of consecutive points-paying road-coursew ins at four. Elliott led 44 laps of the 70-lap race, all before the sixth caution. He struggled throughout the final 15 laps, though, and wound up 21st at the checkered flag.

Elliott was the race leader before the rain. He started on the pole and led all the green-flag laps and all but one-lap, overall, until the fourth caution of the race on lap 27. His first stint up front included a stage-one win on lap 16.

But during the fourth caution, Elliott lost several positions on pit road, and several drivers stayed out. As a result, Elliott restarted 11th. Hamlin was the first off pit road, and on lap 31, he took the lead from A.J. Allmendinger, one of the drivers who stayed out. Hamlin won the second stage that ended on lap 34.

Busch took the lead soon after the race restarted after being the first off pit road. But, while running up front, he got off track and wound up outside the top-20 by the time he got back on course. Bell, who led the one lap not led by Elliott in the first stage, took a brief lead before Elliott retook the position with 30 laps to go.

Elliott maintained the lead until the rain caution with 15 laps remaining. After restarting 15th, he got off course upon contact with Corey LaJoie. Elliott’s trouble continued when he spun after contact with Hamlin with six laps to go.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Kevin Harvick, Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece and Alex Bowman.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253:

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Posted by on February 22, 2021. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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