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Christopher Bell Makes Major Rebound to Win at Homestead; Punches Ticket to Final Four

Just seven days ago, Christopher Bell was brutally close to guaranteeing himself a shot at the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series title in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway, finishing 0.082 seconds short of Kyle Larson.

That left Bell, a fourth-year driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, feeling as though a victory in the final two races of the ‘Round of 8’ would be necessary, if he was going to return to Phoenix with another shot at the championship.

So, that’s exactly what the Joe Gibbs Racing driver ended up doing, winning Sunday’s 4EVER 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But, the journey to get there, was more difficult than it sounds.

“I’ve got the best team behind me,” Bell told NBC Sports after celebrating the victory on the frontstretch. “Honestly, I don’t know, man. That race was a whirlwind. I was ready to throw the towel in there in the second stage. I got frustrated on the radio. Adam [Stevens] kept after it.”

The 28-year-old driver didn’t have the quickest car – by any means – on Sunday and didn’t even touch the top five until the final 50 laps of the event, finishing ninth place in the race’s first stage, and just about getting lapped at the end of the second.

Taking a car that was running outside of the top-20 on pace, crew chief Adam Stevens worked hard to get the No. 20 back in contention, climbing through the pack during a long green-flag run, until a caution flew with 51 laps to go.

The driver of the No. 20 was then suddenly in contention for the victory, leading the race for the first time with 36 laps to go — track position he would subsequently lose on pit road under the race’s next caution, which came seven laps later.

Then, during what ended up being the race’s final restart, Bell was able to methodically move around Ryan Blaney, and then race-leader William Byron, to take over the lead with 16 laps to go, stretching his advantage to 1.651 seconds at the race’s conclusion.

“Adam, Tyler, William, the guys back at the shop were working over the adjustments and gave me what I needed,” Bell continued. “Whenever we got some clean air, this thing was really good. I cannot say how proud I am to be here with our partners, with Rheem and DeWalt, driving these Toyota Camrys. Thank you, everyone, that’s supported me. This is better than a dream come true.”

Blaney, who showed up to Homestead with tons of speed, finished in second place, attempting to make a major change over the race’s final 15 or so laps, coming up just short and having to settle in line.

Tyler Reddick made a late-race charge to finish inside the top-three, in third, while William Byron faded to finish in fourth. AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-five, in his No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing.

Bubba Wallace came home in sixth, with Ty Gibbs rebounding from a poorly-timed caution to finish in seventh-place. Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-10, in strong runs for each of those three drivers, given their circumstances.

After winning at Las Vegas, Kyle Larson came back to Homestead in typical form, leading a race-high 96 laps. But, coming to pit road under green, Larson misjudged the speed of then-race-leader Blaney, hitting the back of the No. 12 and the pit road barrels.

Larson’s problems occurred with 50 laps remaining in the race, but triggered multiple cautions, which indirectly caused an onslaught of issues for other post-season drivers, including Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr.

Hamlin, who was battling for a position inside the top five late in the race, suffered a steering issue late in the running, slamming the outside wall and impacting his situation in the points heading to Martinsville.

Just moments after Hamlin had an incident in the first corner, his teammate Martin Truex, Jr. began having issues with the engine on his No. 19 Toyota Camry, which would ultimately send him to the garage, with a finish outside of the top-30.

Leaving Homestead, only Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson are guaranteed to have a spot in the Final Four for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, with the remaining six drivers fighting for the final two spots.

William Byron (+30) and Ryan Blaney (+10) currently sit above the cutline heading to Martinsville Speedway, the final race of the ‘Round of 8’, while Tyler Reddick (-10), Denny Hamlin (-17), Martin Truex, Jr. (-17), and Chris Buescher (-43) all sit on the outside.

Race Results – NASCAR Cup Series at Homestead

Race Results: NASCAR Cup Series 4EVER 400 at Homestead

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