Christopher Bell came back from a more than three-second deficit to Joey Logano, in the final five laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, to score his first-career NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Bell made the race-winning move coming into the frontstretch chicane heading to the white flag. From there, Bell would cruise to a victory margin of more than two seconds.
Following the win, Bell felt he wasn’t going to be able to overcome the large lead Logano had built.
“No, Really didn’t,” Bell said. “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 up through there. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get there.”
For Bell, winning a NASCAR Cup Series race is the realization of everything he’s worked for his entire life. Bell says he has his time with Leavine Family Racing in 2020 to thank for being prepared to win on Sunday.
“This is, I don’t know, man. 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 I got the opportunity to run in Cup and it definitely prepared me to move to Joe Gibbs Racing,” Bell said.
For Logano, it’s the second-consecutive race that he has held the lead late, only to go on to suffer a loss. However, this time, Logano held on for a second-place finish.
Had there been one more caution lap, Logano feels he could have had at least a shot at a photo finish with Bell.
“The tires,” Logano explained. “I mean, he’s the one who got through with tires. One lap. One more caution lap would have been enough to at least have a door-to-door finish across the finish line, maybe. I don’t know. When they start catching you a second a lap, gosh, just trying to get all I could.”
Denny Hamlin finished third.
Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski overcame a myriad of issues all race long, to finish fourth and fifth.
Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Ryan Preece and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-10 finishers.
McDowell made an impressive rally after he had a flat tire on lap 1 of the race, that sent him to the rear of the field. The 2021 Daytona 500 winner, kept battling all day and when things got crazy toward the end, the No. 34 car was there for his second top-10 in as many races in 2021.
The race took a turn with 19 laps to go, when NASCAR called a caution for weather. Sprinkles had begun to fall on the road course, so NASCAR wanted to give teams a chance to move to wet tires if they felt necessary.
At this point in the race, Chase Elliott seemingly had the field covered, as he had led 44 of the 50 laps completed. However, as Elliott and a huge portion of the field pitted for new tires, Logano, and 10 other drivers opted to roll the dice and stayed on track with old tires.
The gamble paid off for those drivers, as Elliott and Martin Truex Jr. found trouble trying to work their way back to the front of the field.
Elliott made an incredible save in the grass with 12 laps to go, but with under 10 to go, Elliott was sent spinning off the front bumper of Hamlin while attempting to pass Keselowski.
Truex would rally to finish 12th, while Elliott would come home a disappointing 21st.
View all of the post-race stats, information and race highlights with our O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 Race Information Page:
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.