Bell advances to Playoff’s Round of 8 with Cup victory at Charlotte Roval

Christopher Bell capitalized on a late strategic pit call for fresh tires followed by two late-race restarts by winning a wild conclusion to the fifth annual running of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course on Sunday, October 9.

The 27-year-old Bell from Norman, Oklahoma, led the final two of 112 over-scheduled laps en route to the victory. Prior to his victory, he was initially appeared to be eliminated from the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. When the caution flew due to debris being reported on the track with six laps remaining, an opportunity struck for Bell, who pitted for four fresh tires. Amid two late-race restarts, including the second that sent the event into overtime, and a bevy of carnage and chaos that affected a number of Playoff contenders, Bell managed to carve his way to the front as he claimed the lead from Kevin Harvick with two laps remaining. From there, he rocketed away from the field and smoothly navigate his way around the circuit for a final time to claim his second checkered flag of the 2022 Cup Series season.

With the victory, Bell, who came into the event 54 points below the top-eight cutline to transfer to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs, was one of eight competitors to transfer and continue to pursue this year’s title while another group of four competitors, including reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, were left on the outside and out of the Playoffs.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Playoff competitor Joey Logano claimed his third pole position of the 2022 season and the 25th of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 103.424 mph in 80.755 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff competitor William Byron, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 103.300 mph in 80.852 seconds.

Prior to the event, Playoff competitor Ross Chastain along with Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher, Loris Hezemans and newcomer Conor Daly dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective cars. Aric Almirola also dropped to the rear of the field due to an engine change along with Josh Williams, who failed pre-race technical inspection and was assessed a pass-through penalty through pit road upon starting the race.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Logano fended off Byron to lead the field through the first two turns followed by the infield, road course turns while Byron was being challenged early by Suarez for second place. As the field returned to the oval turns before entering the backstretch chicane and returning to the frontstretch chicane, Logano was able to lead the first lap ahead of a four-car battle for the runner-up spot that included Byron, Suarez, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney. Behind, Austin Dillon missed the frontstretch chicane and was later assessed a pass-through penalty through pit road for failing to comply to missing the chicane by coming to a full stop on the track.

Through the second lap of the event, Logano’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang remained out in front by more than a second over Byron’s No. 24 Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 while Suarez, Reddick, Blaney, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger, Bubba Wallace and Chase Elliott were scored in the top 10. 

During the following lap, Bubba Wallace missed the frontstretch chicane after locking up the front tires of his No. 45 Root Insurance Toyota TRD Camry while running in the top 10 as he came to a full stop before proceeding to avoid a penalty. Wallace eventually pitted under green for four fresh tires after flat-sotting his original tires.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Logano stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Byron followed by Suarez, Reddick and Blaney while Cindric, Bell, Allmendinger, Elliott and Michael McDowell were running in the top 10. By then, seven of 11 Playoff competitors participating in the event were racing in the top 10 while the remaining Playoff competitors that included Kyle Larson, Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain were in 12th, 14th, 17th and 26th, respectively. Meanwhile, Noah Gragson, who was filling in for Alex Bowman for a second consecutive weekend, was in 22nd behind Erik Jones.

At the Lap 10 mark, Logano’s advantage decreased to seven-tenths of a second over Byron, who started to close in on Logano for the lead, while Suarez remained in third place and nearly four seconds behind. While Reddick and Blaney remained in the top five, Cindric, Allmendinger, Elliott, Bell and McDowell were scored in the top 10.

By the Lap 20 mark, pit strategy commenced as Chastain, Chris Buescher and Mike Rockenfeler pitted along with Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Gragson, Almirola, Joey Hand, Justin Haley, Ty Gibbs, Harrison Burton, Kyle Busch, the Dillon brothers, Stenhouse, Keselowski, McDowell, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, Kevin Harvick, AJ Allmendinger and Elliott. During the pit stops, rookie Todd Gilliland missed his pit box and cycled around the circuit for another lap before pitting again. Meanwhile, Logano remained as the leader by half a second over a hard-charging Byron while Suarez was trying to defend Reddick for third place.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 25, Logano held off Byron by half a second to capture his sixth stage victory of the 2022 season. Suarez, who prevailed in his battle with Reddick after Reddick pitted under green a few laps earlier, settled in third followed by Blaney, Cindric, Larson, Briscoe, Hamlin, Reddick and Allmendinger. By then, eight of 12 Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 while the remaining Playoff competitors that included Elliott, Bell and Chastain were in 11th, 14th and 17th, respectively. In addition, all but one of 39 starters were scored on the lead lap while Daniil Kvyat was in the garage and scored in 39th place, dead last.

Under the stage break, some led by Logano pitted while the rest led by Reddick remained on the track.  

The second stage started on Lap 29 as Reddick and Allmendinger occupied the front row. At the start, Reddick managed to fend off Allmendinger to retain the lead through the first two turns and through the infield turns while the field behind jostled for positions. Behind, Justin Haley made his way into third while Bell, Elliott and McDowell battled for fourth in front of Cole Custer and Kevin Harvick.

During the following lap, Allmendinger, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity Series event at the Roval, muscled his No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 around Reddick’s No. 8 3Chi Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 while re-entering the oval turns to take the lead for the first time.

With the event surpassing the Lap 35 mark, Allmendinger was leading by nearly a second over Reddick followed by Haley, Elliott and McDowell while Bell, Custer, Harvick, Chastain and Erik Jones were in the top 10. By then, Ty Gibbs was in 11th while Truex, Burton, Corey LaJoie, Gragson, Keselowski, Buescher, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon and Briscoe occupied the top 20. Stenhouse was scored in 21st ahead of Logano, Suarez, Larson and Byron while Blaney, Almirola, Hamlin, Cindric and Gilliland were running in the top 30. Notably, Wallace, who made contact with Suarez on pit road during the first stage’s break period, was mired in 32nd ahead of Joey Hand, Loris Hezemans was in 35th, Mike Rockenfeller was back in 37th and Conor Daly was mired in 38th.

Five laps later, Allmendinger extended his advantage to more than a second over Reddick while Haley, Elliott and McDowell remained in the top five. By then, only three of 11 Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 while the remaining eight were scored outside of the top 15, with Briscoe being the highest of the eight in 17th place. As Logano and Larson battled for 21st place, Suarez was mired in 24th in front of Byron, Blaney and Hamlin. In the midst of the Playoff competitors jockeying for positions, both Gragson and Corey LaJoie missed the backstretch chicane and both were forced to come to a full stop before proceeding.

A few laps later, Chastain missed the backstretch chicane while running in ninth place and was forced to come to a stop before proceeding under green. Despite missing the chicane, he only lost one spot as he was back in 10th behind Erik Jones and Harvick.

In the closing laps of the second stage, another cycle of green flag pit stops commenced as names including Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Hamlin, Gilliland, Stenhouse, Keselowski, Erik Jones, Reddick, Elliott, Wallace, Gragson, Austin Dillon, Truex, McDowell, Bell, Harvick, Custer, Haley and the leader Allmendinger pitted. In the midst of the cycle, Chastain, who opted for stage points, moved into the lead.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 50, Chastain, who started at the rear of the field in a backup car after wrecking his primary car during Saturday’s qualifying session, captured his sixth stage victory of the 2022 season. Harrison Burton settled in second while Larson, Allmendinger, Reddick, Suarez, Logano, Briscoe, Blaney and Elliott were scored in the top 10. By then, seven of 11 Playoff competitors were scored in the top 10 on the track while the remaining Playoff competitors that included Byron, Cindric, Bell and Hamlin were mired in 11th, 12th, 16th and 31st, respectively. In addition, all but one of 39 starters were running on the track and on the lead lap.

Under the stage break, some led by Chastain pitted while the rest led by Allmendinger and Reddick remained on the track.

With 55 laps remaining, the final stage started as Allmendinger and Reddick occupied the front row. At the start, Reddick and Allmendinger dueled for the lead until Reddick used the outside lane to his advantage as he rocketed to the lead. Behind, Elliott overtook Haley for third followed by Harvick as the field jostled again for positions. Through the infield turns and back to the oval turns, Reddick managed to remain ahead of Allmendinger as the event surpassed its halfway mark.

Five laps later and down to the final 50 laps of the event, Reddick was leading by six-tenths of a second over Allmendinger while Elliott, Haley, Harvick, McDowell, Custer, Bell, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon occupied the top 10. Gragson was up in 11th followed by Erik Jones, Buescher, Truex and Gibbs while Keselowski, Hamlin, Briscoe, Almirola and Byron were running in the top 20. Wallace was mired back in 21st ahead of Ty Dillon, LaJoie, Suarez and Chastain while Cindric, Larson, Logano, Blaney and Stenhouse rounded out the top 30.

Another 10 laps later, Reddick continued to lead by six-tenths of a second over Allmendinger followed by Elliott, Haley and Harvick while McDowell, Custer, Bell, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon remained in the top 10. By then, Elliott and Bell, who was placed in a “must-win” situation to advance in the Playoff’s Round of 8, were the only Playoff competitors running in the top 10 on the track while Briscoe, Hamlin, Byron, Larson, Chastain, Cindric, Blaney, Logano and Suarez were running in 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th and 36th, respectively. Based on their current positions, Briscoe, who overcame contact with LaJoie at the start of the final stage in the backstretch chicane, held sole possession of the eighth and final transfer spot to the Round of 8 by 15 points over Suarez, who was having power steering issues to his No. 99 CommScope Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, with Cindric also trailing outside of the cutline.

Not long after, Bell and Larson pitted under green along with Elliott and Buescher, Ty Dillon, Stenhouse, Logano and Cindric. Then under the final 36 laps of the event, Reddick surrendered the lead to pit along with Harvick, Custer, Truex, Briscoe, Byron and Cindric. By then, Allmendinger cycled into the lead while Suarez was lapped by the leaders.

With 35 laps remaining, Allmendinger pitted under green while McDowell moved into the lead. By then, Hamlin, Blaney, Gibbs, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Gragson and Haley made their respective pit stops under green. 

Three laps later, Elliott, who emerged as the highest-running competitor on the track who recently pitted under green, cycled his way into the lead after overtaking Erik Jones, who still had to pit. By then, McDowell pitted under green as Reddick and Allmendinger closed in on Jones for the runner-up spot.

A few laps later, a pair of issues struck for Trackhouse Racing’s two-car entries. The first was when Suarez, who was scored two laps behind the leaders, pitted under green to have his power steering issue diagnosed as his hopes of advancing to the Round of 8 took a hit. The second was for Chastain, who made contact with the wall and was slipping sideways through each and every turn, but continued to run under minimum speed for another pair of laps before pitting under green. Chastain, who came into the event 28 points above the Round of 8 cutline, would eventually reserve his No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 back to the garage due to an issue with his toe link and right rear suspension. His issues garnered the attention of Cindric, who rallied from getting into Joey Hand entering the backstretch chicane and was scored one spot outside of the cutline, while Briscoe continued to occupy the eighth and final transfer spot in the Playoff standings.

With less than 20 laps remaining, Elliott extended his advantage to more than four seconds over Reddick and five seconds over third-place Allmendinger while Harvick, Haley, McDowell, Bell, Gragson, Austin Dillon and Custer occupied the top 10. By then, Elliott and Bell remained as the only Playoff competitors to be running in the top 10 on the track while Larson, Briscoe, Byron, Cindric, Hamlin, Blaney, Logano, Suarez and Chastain were scored in 14th, 15th, 17th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 36th and 37th, respectively.

Nearly five laps later, Chastain returned to the track and he was mired in 37th place, nine laps behind the leaders, but still in contention of transferring to the Round of 8. Teammate Suarez, however, returned to pit road for more steering fluid. Back at the front, Elliott stabilized his large advantage to more than four seconds over Allmendinger. Reddick, meanwhile, was forced to stop on the frontstretch for missing the backstretch chicane, but he managed to proceed in third place ahead of Harvick and Haley.

With 14 laps remaining, more issues encountered Suarez, who made contact with LaJoie as LaJoie spun towards the frontstretch chicane. Despite the incident, both competitors proceeded without drawing a caution as Elliott continued to lead by nearly four seconds over Allmendinger.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Elliott was leading by nearly four seconds over Allmendinger. Reddick remained in third in front of Harvick and Haley while McDowell, Bell, Austin Dillon, Gragson and Custer were in the top 10. By then, Briscoe, who was in 13th, continued to hold sole possession of the eighth and final transfer spot to the Round of 8 by a mere margin over Suarez, who was back in 36th and five laps behind the leaders. In the midst of this, Larson pitted and spent extra time in his pit box after reporting a toe link and right rear suspension issue to his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, an issue that stemmed from him getting into the wall in Turn 7 earlier.

Then with six laps remaining, the caution flew due to debris reported on the track. By then, Elliott was ahead by more than four seconds over Allmendinger. In addition, Larson returned to the track following his mechanical issues as he was scored in 35th place, five laps down and one spot ahead of Suarez. During the caution period, some led by Bell pitted while the rest led by Elliott remained on the track

When the race restarted under green with three laps remaining, Elliott and Allmendinger dueled for the lead as Gragson made contact with McDowell and spun entering the first turn. Back at the front, Allmendinger rubbed and moved Elliott up the track in Turn 3 to clear himself for the lead. Through Turn 4, however, Harvick bumped and got Allmendinger loose as he muscled his No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang into the lead. Two turns later, Reddick got into Elliott in a battle for second place as Elliott spun and plummeted below the leaderboard. Through the backstretch chicane, Briscoe spun after getting hit by Austin Dillon while Logano, Erik Jones and Byron also wrecked. Amid all the chaos, the race proceeded under green as Harvick continued to lead.

When the field returned to the frontstretch, Harvick was leading by seven-tenths of a second over Reddick followed by Bell, Allmendinger and Haley. Not long after, more carnage ensued as Almirola and Ty Dillon collided and spun. Following the incident, the caution returned and the event was sent into overtime due to curbing that came loose on the backstretch chicane, which caused NASCAR to display the red flag and pause the event for six minutes to repair the curbs in the chicane.

Once the field proceeded under a cautious pace after the repairs to the chicane were made, names like Byron, Gragson, Briscoe, Almirola, LaJoie, Ty Dillon, Burton, Logano, Cindric and Almirola pitted while the rest led by Harvick remained on the track.

During the first overtime attempt, Harvick and Bell battled for the lead until Bell used the fresh tires to his advantage as he assumed the lead and cleared the field approaching the infield turns. Amid a multi-car wreck in the first turn that collected Blaney, the race remained under green as Bell started to pull away from Harvick and the field. Then through the backstretch chicane, Cindric, who was trying to fight his way into the Round of 8, locked up his front tires and sent Keselowski out of the racing groove before he spun, which all but evaporated his hopes of transferring to the next round.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Bell remained as the leader by a second over Harvick and Allmendinger. As the field behind continued to jostle for last-minute positions, Bell was able to navigate his way around the circuit for the final time and cycle back to the frontstretch to win the race and earn a one-way ticket to the Round of 8.

In addition to maintaining his championship hopes of this season by transferring to the Round of 8, Bell captured his second Cup Series victory of this season, his first since winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July and the third of his career. The victory was also the 199th Cup victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, overall, as Bell became the fourth different competitor to win at the Roval.

“Oh, man, I don’t even know,” Bell, who was beaming, said on NBC. “Whenever I came off pit road and I was the first car with tires, I was just trying to wait and see where I stacked up. I saw there were 11 cars that stayed out on old tires, I was the first one on new tires. I said I guess we’re going to roll the dice here and see what happens. When I got into turn one, my spotter did an amazing job. They all started wrecking. He told me to stay tight to the middle, and that kept me out of all the junk in turn one. Really proud of everyone on this DeWalt team. They deserve it, man. We’ve been trying so hard to get DeWalt in Victory Lane. We finally got this Camry here.”

“Man, you just got to be there at the end of these things,” Bell added. “I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. No secret that road courses have not been our strength year. We were just there at the right time. We obviously weren’t in position to win, we rolled the dice, gambled, it paid off for us. I feel really good about [us], that’s for sure. I knew that the whole time going into this second round of the Playoffs this was the troublemaker, with Talladega and then the road course being in here, when we weren’t strong on the road courses. I was really nervous about this round. I felt good about Texas. When we got out of there with no points, I thought it was going to be a really tough road. It was a really tough road. But there was an end to it.”

Amid the late carnage and turn of events, Harvick came home in second place followed by Kyle Busch, Allmendinger and Haley. Buescher, Wallace and Reddick finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively, while Briscoe claimed ninth place on the track and the eighth and final transfer spot to the Playoffs by two points over Larson, who ended up 35th and out of the Playoffs as his hopes of winning a second consecutive Cup title evaporated.

“Man, what a wild day,” Briscoe, who was left relieved, said. “I told my guys before we took the initial green [flag] of the race, ‘There’s a difference between thinking we can move on and knowing we can move on.’ I knew we could move on. This team just never gives up. I told them I was never gonna give up. It took every bit of it there at the end. To be easily in, then that debris caution comes out and still, I thought we really had a good shot of making it in. Get wrecked on the backstretch and just crazy at the end of these races, especially the road course race. Just how much can change so quickly. I had no idea we were even gonna have a shot. Truthfully, I knew that we were probably out and I saw [Cindric] wreck. I was like, ‘Maybe, there’s still a chance.’ Just so proud of this race team. Just a really cool day. Looking forward to the Round of 8. It’s a lot of really, really good racetracks for me. If we get to Phoenix, we know we got a good car there too. Just overall, awesome day. Proud of my team and just move on.” 

Photo by Kevin Ritchie for SpeedwayMedia.com.

“[I was worried] As soon as I hit the wall,” Larson, who was left disappointed, said. “You give up that many spots, you know that you’re gonna be close. I just made way too many mistakes all year long and made another one today and ultimately, cost us an opportunity to go chase another championship. Just extremely mad at myself and let the team down a number of times this year. [I] Let them down in a big way today. We’ll keep fighting. We’ll come back stronger and I’ll definitely come back stronger and smarter. Make better moves out there. Just mad at myself. Bummer, but just got to move on.”

Photo by Kevin Ritchie for SpeedwayMedia.com.

Larson was not the only competitor left dejected with having championship hopes of this season diminished as Suarez, Cindric and Bowman (who did not compete due to concussion-like symptoms) were eliminated from the Playoffs.

“It was tough,” Suarez, who ended up 36th, said. “It was very, very tough. We did what we needed to do in the first half of the race: getting stage points and everything. Once we lost the [power] steering, it was pretty much just hoping for a little bit of luck, which we almost got right there at the end. It is what it is. We have to continue to get better. We have to come back to the shop and look at what went wrong and try to get better.”

“We were in a position where I needed one more spot,” Cindric, who fell back to 21st said. “I was working to try to get that spot. I haven’t seen the replay, but it sounds like I got hit from behind. Locked the rears [tires] and got set back. No, I just screwed that up. I think [Erik Jones] hit me there at the end. Doesn’t matter. Just trying to drive probably a little desperate for 30-lap older tires than every car around me. Just tried to make something happen. We were golden there if that red flag wouldn’t have come out. We were in a great spot to make it in. It’s the way these [races] go. Just frustrating, but that’s Playoff racing. I learned a lot in my rookie season and proud to be able to have a shot to finish out the season strong and have some fun the next couple of weeks.”

In addition to Bell and Briscoe, Elliott, Logano, Chastain, Byron, Blaney and Hamlin have transferred to the Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

There were 10 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 10 laps. In total, 37 of 39 starters finished the race, with 27 finishing on the lead lap.

Results.

1. Christopher Bell, two laps led

2. Kevin Harvick, four laps led

3. Kyle Busch

4. AJ Allmendinger, 24 laps led

5. Justin Haley

6. Chris Buescher

7. Bubba Wallace

8. Tyler Reddick, 21 laps led

9. Chase Briscoe

10. Austin Dillon

11. Erik Jones, one lap led

12. Corey LaJoie

13. Denny Hamlin

14. Brad Keselowski

15. Aric Almirola

16. William Byron 

17. Martin Truex Jr.

18. Joey Logano, 27 laps led, Stage 1 winner

19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

20. Chase Elliott, 30 laps led

21. Austin Cindric

22. Ty Gibbs

23. Noah Gragson

24. Cole Custer

25. Ty Dillon

26. Ryan Blaney

27. Michael McDowell

28. Harrison Burton, one lap down

29. Mike Rockenfeller, one lap down

30. Todd Gilliland, one lap down

31. Josh Williams, two laps down

32. JJ Yeley, two laps down

33. Loris Hezemans, two laps down

34. Conor Daly, three laps down

35. Kyle Larson, five laps down

36. Daniel Suarez, five laps down

37. Ross Chastain, nine laps down, three laps led, Stage 2 winner

38. Joey Hand – OUT, Accident

39. Daniil Kvyat – OUT, Engine

*Bold indicates Playoff contenders

Playoff standings

1. Chase Elliott – Advanced

2. Christopher Bell – Advanced

3. Ryan Blaney – Advanced

4. Joey Logano – Advanced

5. Denny Hamlin – Advanced

6. William Byron – Advanced

7. Ross Chastain – Advanced

8. Chase Briscoe – Advanced

9. Kyle Larson – Eliminated

10. Daniel Suarez – Eliminated

11. Austin Cindric – Eliminated

12. Alex Bowman – Eliminated

The Round of 8 in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will commence next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, October 16. The event’s coverage is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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