Bell clinches Championship 4 berth with dramatic Cup victory at Homestead

A week after coming within striking distance of securing a Championship 4 berth before being edged by Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell earned a redemptive NASCAR Cup Series victory in the 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, October 22, to officially race his way into this year’s Championship 4 round.

The 28-year-old Bell from Norman, Oklahoma, led two times for 26 of 267-scheduled laps in an event where he started 13th and flirted between running towards the top 10 to running outside the top 10 throughout the event’s first two stage periods. Then after leading for the first time with 37 laps remaining, Bell withstood three late caution periods that knocked out Larson along with teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin to assume the lead for the second and final time with 15 laps remaining amid an intense battle between Playoff rivals William Byron and Ryan Blaney. From there, Bell muscled away with the top spot and claimed the checkered flag by more than a second over Blaney to notch his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the 2023 season and become the second Playoff competitor alongside Kyle Larson to secure one of four vacant spots into this year’s Championship 4 round.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, October 21, Playoff contender Martin Truex Jr. secured his second Cup Series pole position of the season and the 22nd of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 167.411 mph in 32.256 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Bubba Wallace, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 167.115 mph in 32.313 seconds.

Prior to the event, Joey Logano dropped to the rear of the field in a backup car after he wrecked his primary car during Saturday’s practice session.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Truex and Wallace dueled for the lead through the first two turns as the field behind fanned out. Entering the backstretch, Wallace gained the momentum and pulled his No. 23 McDonald’s Grimace Toyota TRD Camry ahead of the pack, but Truex fought back on the inside lane through Turns 3 and 4 as he managed to lead the first lap by a hair over Wallace. Truex and Wallace would continue to duel dead even for the lead through the next two laps until Wallace used the outside lane to his advantage as he led the next two laps before clearing Truex to have both lanes to his control.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Wallace was leading by a tenth of a second over Truex. Wallace would retain the lead by three-tenths of a second over Truex by the Lap 10 mark as Brad Keselowski, William Byron and Tyler Reddick were in the top five. Then during the following lap, Truex moved his No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota TRD Camry back into the lead over Wallace as Keselowski and Byron battled for third place in front of Kyle Larson.

At the Lap 20 mark, Byron emerged as the new leader over Truex followed by Keselowski, Larson and Tyler Reddick while Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Christopher Bell were running in the top 10. Behind, Kyle Busch trailed in 11th place ahead of Ross Chastain, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez and Michael McDowell while AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, rookie Ty Gibbs and Austin Cindric occupied the top 20 in front of Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece and Playoff contender Chris Buescher. In addition, Logano was mired in 27th in between Buescher, Harrison Burton and Chase Briscoe while John Hunter Nemechek was in 34th behind Todd Gilliland.

Ten laps later, Byron continued to lead by three-tenths of a second over Keselowski followed by Larson, Truex and Reddick while Blaney, Hamlin, Wallace, Austin Dillon and Bell were running in the top 10 on the track. Meanwhile, Playoff contender Buescher was mired back in 28th.

Shortly after, the first wave of green flag pit stops commenced as Kyle Busch and Ryan Preece pitted their respective entries. Austin Dillon would pit by Lap 31 along with Chase Elliott, McDowell, Bowman and others before a bevy of names led by Keselowski, Larson, Truex, Blaney and Chastain pitted by Lap 32. By Lap 33, Byron surrendered the lead to pit his No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 under green before Reddick, who led a lap for himself, pitted his No. 45 McDonald’s Hamburglar Toyota TRD Camry during the proceeding lap along with teammate Wallace as Hamlin cycled into the lead.

By Lap 40 and with most of the field having made a pit stop under green, Hamlin, who led the previous seven laps, surrendered the lead to pit his No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota TRD Camry along with Logano as Keselowski cycled into the lead ahead of Larson, Byron, Blaney and Truex.

Ten laps later, Keselowski retained the lead by a second over Larson followed by Byron, Blaney and Truex while Reddick, Austin Dillon, Bell, Hamlin and Chastain were running in the top 10. With seven of eight Playoff contenders running in the top 10, minus Keselowski, Austin Dillon and Chastain, Buescher was the lone Playoff contender not running in the top 10 as he was mired in 26th behind Harrison Burton.

Another four laps later, Larson muscled his No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 into the lead over Keselowski while racing on the inside lane. Larson would proceed to lead at the Lap 60 mark by two seconds over Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford Mustang while Byron, Blaney, Truex, Reddick, Austin Dillon, bell, Hamlin and Chastain were scored in the top 10. By then, Buescher was mired back in 27th while AJ Allmendinger, Wallace, Ty Gibbs, LaJoie and Kyle Busch occupied the top 15 in front of Kevin Harvick.

By Lap 70, Larson stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Keselowski as Blaney, Byron and Truex battled in the top five ahead of Reddick, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Bell and Ty Gibbs. Meanwhile, Buescher lost one spot in the process as he was down in 28th.

Then on Lap 76, the first caution period of the event flew after Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was running 18th, made contact with the backstretch’s outside wall before he spun below the track and damaged the right-rear toe link of his No. 47 Boost by Kroger/Vitaminwater Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. The caution for Stenhouse’s incident was enough for the first stage period scheduled to conclude on Lap 80 to conclude under caution as Larson, who secured his spot into this year’s Championship 4 round by winning last weekend’s Playoff event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, captured his eighth Cup stage victory of the 2023 season. Keselowski settled in second while Blaney, Byron, Truex, Hamlin, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Bell and Ty Gibbs were scored in the top 10. By then, Buescher was the lone Playoff contender to not score the first round of stage points as he was mired in 27th.

Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Larson pitted. Following the pit stops, Larson retained the lead after exiting pit road first ahead of Keselowski, Byron, Truex, Blaney, Austin Dillon and Reddick.

The second stage period started on Lap 85 as Larson and Keselowski occupied the front row. At the start, Larson muscled ahead on the outside lane as he retained the lead over Keselowski, Byron, Ty Gibbs and Truex while Blaney and Reddick battled for sixth place alongside Chastain. As the field behind jostled for spots, Larson proceeded to lead just past the Lap 90 mark over teammate Byron by two-tenths of a second as Keselowski, Truex and Blaney trailed in the top five. Behind, Chastain, Ty Gibbs, Reddick, Austin Dillon and Hamlin were in the top 10 while Bell and Buescher were mired in 14th and 26th, respectively.

At the Lap 100 mark, Larson was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Keselowski while third-place Byron trailed by more than a second in third place. Behind, Blaney and Truex were scored in the top five ahead of Chastain, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Ty Gibbs and Hamlin while Allmendinger, LaJoie, Wallace, Logano and Bell occupied the top 15 ahead of Aric Almirola, Cindric, Erik Jones, Harvick and Chase Briscoe. Meanwhile, Suarez, Ryan Preece, Elliott, Kyle Busch and McDowell were running in the top 25 while Buescher was mired in 26th.

Thirteen laps later, a second wave of green flag pit stops commenced as Ty Gibbs pitted under green along with Briscoe and Preece. Larson would then surrender the lead to pit under green by Lap 114 along with teammate Byron, Blaney, Logano, Almirola, Bell, Buescher and Ty Dillon as Keselowski assumed the lead. Keselowski would then pit from the lead on Lap 115 followed by Truex, Reddick, Austin Dillon, Chastain, LaJoie, Erik Jones and Jusitn Haley as Hamlin moved into the lead. Hamlin would lead through Lap 125 before he pitted under green as Larson cycled back into the lead followed by Keselowski, Blaney, Byron and Truex. By then, more names that included LaJoie, Allmendinger, Erik Jones, Suarez and Wallace had pitted under green.

At the halfway mark between Laps 133 and 134, Larson was leading by more than four seconds over Keselowski followed by Blaney, Byron and Truex while Reddick, Ty Gibbs, Austin Dillon, Chastain and Allmendinger were scored in the top 10. Behind, Logano was up to 11th ahead of LaJoie, Briscoe, Hamlin and Almirola while Bell, Erik Jones, Wallace, Preece and Harvick were scored in the top 20 ahead of Suarez, Elliott, Cindric, Kyle Busch, McDowell and Buescher.

By Lap 150, Larson stabilized his advantage to more than two seconds over Blaney while Byron, Keselowski and Truex were running in the top five ahead of Reddick, Ty Gibbs, Austin Dillon, Hamlin and Chastain. Meanwhile, Bell was mired back in 18th behind Wallace while Buescher continued to run in 26th behind McDowell.

Then on Lap 162, Blaney tracked and overtook Larson for the lead. Byron would then overtake teammate Larson for the runner-up spot during the following lap as Blaney checked out with the lead by a second in his No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 165, Blaney, who came into Homestead 17 points below the top-four cutline, captured his fifth Cup stage victory of the 2023 season. Byron settled in second followed by teammate Larson, Hamlin and Keselowski while Truex, Reddick, Ty Gibbs, Austin Dillon and Logano were scored in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Bell and Buescher were scored in 22nd and 26th, respectively.

During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Blaney pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Blaney retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Byron, Keselowski, Hamlin, Larson, Logano, Austin Dillon and Reddick.

With 95 laps remaining, the final stage period commenced as Blaney and Byron occupied the front row. At the start, Blaney retained a brief advantage over Byron through the first two turns and the backstretch before Byron drew himself into a side-by-side challenge against Blaney for the top spot while running on the inside lane. Byron would then muscle ahead during the following lap before he engaged in another side-by-side duel against Blaney for the lead. Amid the duel, Blaney would use the inside lane to muscle ahead, slide up and clear Byron through the frontstretch with 92 laps remaining. In the process, Hamlin was in third place and trailing by eight-tenths of a second while Keselowski and Larson were in the top five.

With 85 laps remaining, Blaney was leading by half a second over Hamlin while Byron, Larson and Chastain trailed in the top five. Behind, Truex, who endured a slow pit stop during the second stage break, and Keselowski made contact as Keselowski then hit the outside wall exiting the backstretch, but the race proceeded under green. Amid the late on-track battles, Blaney retained the lead by seven-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Hamlin while Larson, Byron and Chastain remained in the top five with 75 laps remaining. With Austin Dillon, Truex, Keselowski, Reddick and Bell running in the top 10, Buescher was mired back in 27th while racing a lap down.

Then with 57 laps remaining, another wave of green flag pit stops commenced as Keselowski pitted followed by Truex, Ty Gibbs, Suarez, Ryan Newman and Chastain. Then amid the green flag pit stops, the caution flew with 55 laps remaining after Larson, who was trying to enter pit road behind the leader Blaney under green, locked up his front tires while trying to ease off of the throttle and hit the sand barrels towards the pit road entrance before he nursed his damaged No. 5 Chevrolet into his pit stall. The incident was enough for NASCAR to place the event in a red flag period as the track crews proceeded to clean up sand from the destroyed barrels towards pit road entrance.

Following the red flag period that lasted more than 12 minutes, the field led by Hamlin returned under a cautious pace. During the caution period, a majority of the field led by Hamlin pitted while Blaney, who benefitted during Larson’s incident by pitting his No. 12 Ford Mustang and remaining on the lead lap, remained on the track as he inherited the lead. Following the pit stops, Hamlin exited pit road first followed by Byron, Harvick, Allmendinger, Bell, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch. Amid the caution period, the following names that included Chastain, Truex, Briscoe, Ty Gibbs and Elliott took the wave around back to the lead lap while Keselowski received the free pass.

With the race restarting under green with 46 laps remaining, Blaney and Hamlin dueled for the lead through the frontstretch and entering the first two turns until Hamlin motored ahead on the inside lane to assume the lead from Blaney as Bell joined the battle. Shortly after, the caution quickly returned after Keselowski, who was running in the middle of the pack and was sandwiched in between Chastain and John Hunter Nemechek entering the backstretch, sent both Nemechek and Chastain sideways and into one another, where they collected JJ Yeley in the process as Yeley spun and pounded the inside wall head on while Nemechek also spun towards the inside wall and Chastain spun sideways in the middle of the track. During the caution period, some that included Wallace, Keselowski, Truex, Briscoe, Ty Gibbs, Preece and Elliott pitted while the rest led by Hamlin remained on the track.

During the following restart with 38 laps remaining, Hamlin and Blaney dueled for the lead in front of Bell and Byron through the frontstretch and entering the first two turns. With Blaney and Hamlin continuing to duel dead even for the lead through the backstretch, Bell made a bold three-wide move on both through Turns 3 and 4 to assume the lead during the following lap. With Bell checking out with the lead, another three-wide battle ensued for the runner-up spot between Hamlin, Blaney and Byron before Byron used the outside lane to clear both through Turns 3 and 4 and retain the runner-up spot. As Blaney and Hamlin continued to battle dead even for third place, another three-wide battle ensued behind between Harvick, Austin Dillon and Logano for fifth place while Bell was leading by nearly eight-tenths of a second over Byron with 35 laps remaining.

Then three laps later, the caution flew after Playoff contender Hamlin, who was locked in a tight battle with Blaney for third place, went up the track in Turn 1 and pounded the outside wall hard as a result of a broken steering before he limped his damaged No. 11 Toyota TRD Camry to pit road and eventually retired from the event. In the process, concerns started to occur for teammate and Playoff contender Truex after light smoke was seen billowing out of the No. 19 Toyota TRD Camry, an issue that would result with Truex’s car being pushed to the garage.

During the caution period, the field led by Bell pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Byron assumed the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Blaney, Bell, Harvick, Logano, Wallace and Reddick.

The following restart with 25 laps remaining witnessed Byron and Blaney duel dead even for the lead through the first two turns and through the backstretch while Bell trailed closely behind. Byron and Blaney continued to battle dead even for the lead through the frontstretch as Bell, Logano and Wallace battled for fifth place. Then with 24 laps remaining, Byron managed to clear Blaney entering the backstretch and assume both lanes to his control while Bell challenged Blaney for the runner-up spot through the frontstretch.

Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Byron was leading by three-tenths of a second over a hard-charging Bell as third-place Blaney trailed by seven-tenths of a second. Behind, Wallace overtook Logano for fourth place and Reddick was in sixth as Ty Gibbs, Allmendinger, Almirola and Austin Cindric were in the top 10.

Then five laps later, Bell made his move beneath Byron as he assumed the lead by a hair through the frontstretch. Bell and Byron would duel for the top spot through the first two turns until Bell slid up the track and cleared Byron through the backstretch. As Bell assumed the lead, Blaney, who was trailing the two leaders by nearly two seconds, retained third place ahead of 23XI Racing’s Reddick and Wallace.

With 10 laps remaining, Bell continued to lead by seven-tenths of a second over Byron as Blaney, Reddick and Wallace retained their respective spots in the top five ahead of Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Logano, Almirola and Harvick. Bell would proceed to retain the lead by more than a second over the new runner-up competitor, Blaney, as Byron fell back to third in front of Reddick, Allmendinger and Wallace with five laps remaining.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Bell remained as the leader by more than a second over Blaney. With Blaney unable to narrow the deficit amid his late-race charge, Bell was able to cycle his No. 20 Rheem Toyota TRD Camry around Homestead smoothly for a final time before he returned to the frontstretch and claimed both the checkered flag and a berth into this year’s Championship 4 round.

With the victory, Bell notched his second NASCAR Cup Series victory of the 2023 season, his first since winning the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Course in April, his first at Homestead and the sixth of his career. The victory was also the eighth of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing and the 10th of the year for the Toyota nameplate.

Above all, Bell, who punched his ticket into this year’s Championship 4 round for a second consecutive season, will contend for his first Cup Series championship two weeks from now at Phoenix Raceway.

Photo by Patrick Sue-Chan for

“I’ve got the best team behind me,” Bell said on NBC. “Honestly, I don’t know, man. That race was a whirlwind. I was ready to throw the towel in there in the second stage and I got really frustrated on the radio. [Crew chief] Adam [Stevens] kept after it. Adam, Tyler, William, the guys back at the shop are working over the adjustments. They gave me what I needed. Whenever we got some clean air, this thing was really good. I cannot say how proud I am to be here with our partners. I’ve been with Toyota since day one. Thank you everyone that supported me. This is better than a dream come true.”

Behind Bell, Blaney muscled his way into a strong runner-up finish ahead of Playoff rivals Reddick and Byron while Allmendinger, the highest non-Playoff contender, settled in fifth place. With the results, Blaney and Byron are currently scored above the top-four cutline to make this year’s Championship 4 round entering the Round of 8 finale next weekend at Martinsville Speedway while Reddick stands as the first competitor currently scored out of the cutline by 10 points. Hamlin, Truex and Buescher are also scored below the cutline following the second Round of 8 event.

“We were good on the long runs all day and that’s what we needed,” Blaney said. “I just couldn’t go for 10 laps or so and those guys got better. I just couldn’t maintain the lead or second, and by the time we kind of got going and people’s stuff were falling off, just too late. Overall, proud of the Menards, Duracell Ford Mustang team. Really, really strong piece. Just got a little bit there at the end, but proud of the effort.”

“The balance was really tricky on our McDonald’s Toyota Camry TRD,” Reddick said. “I just think the biggest thing is we didn’t fire off too good on a couple of restarts. Thankfully, the pit crew did a good job overcoming the difficulties today. Like we weren’t the best on pit road, but the last pit top, we maintained and gave us a shot at that restart. It was still a terrible restart for us, maybe lost two of three spots still, but just found the top [lane] and others weren’t up there and was able to get to third. I was so much faster than [Blaney]. It’s just as soon as he moved up, I was just stuck. It’s just the nature of these cars.”

“We were just really tight all day,” Byron said. “We did a really good job executing our race and kind of managing our long runs and being able to run the fence. We just built way too tight in the center and it’s as much wheel as I could put in the car and as much as I could to slow it down to go left. The guys did a great job of adjusting on the car all day. We had a really good execution day. We came out there with the lead thanks to my pit crew. We just need to bring a winning car next two weeks to get where we want to be, but we’re close.”

Wallace ended up sixth while Ty Gibbs, Logano, Almirola and Austin Dillon finished in the top 10 with Kevin Harvick finishing 11th in his final race at Homestead. In addition, Playoff competitor Chris Buescher capped off his long afternoon in 21st place while Truex and Hamlin ended up 29th and 30th after both were unable to finish the event.

There were 25 lead changes for nine different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 35 laps. In addition, 23 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.


1. Christopher Bell, 26 laps led

2. Ryan Blaney, 53 laps led, Stage 2 winner

3. Tyler Reddick, one lap led

4. William Byron, 25 laps led

5. AJ Allmendinger

6. Bubba Wallace, nine laps led

7. Ty Gibbs

8. Joey Logano

9. Aric Almirola

10. Austin Dillon

11. Kevin Harvick

12. Austin Cindric

13. Ryan Preece

14. Erik Jones

15. Chase Elliott

16. Daniel Suarez

17. Chase Briscoe

18. Kyle Busch

19. Alex Bowman

20. Corey LaJoie

21. Chris Buescher

22. Michael McDowell

23. Justin Haley

24. Ty Dillon, one lap down

25. Todd Gilliland, one lap down

26. Ryan Newman, two laps down

27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., four laps down

28. Brad Keselowski, five laps down, 16 laps led

29. Martin Truex Jr. – OUT, Engine, 10 laps led

30. Denny Hamlin – OUT, Accident, 31 laps led

31. Ross Chastain – OUT, Accident

32. John Hunter Nemechek – OUT, Accident

33. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident

34. Kyle Larson – OUT, Accident, 96 laps led, Stage 1 winner

35. Josh Bilicki – OUT, Accident

36. Harrison Burton – OUT, Overheating

*Bold indicates Playoff contenders

Playoff standings

1. Kyle Larson – Advanced

2. Christopher Bell – Advanced

3. William Byron +30

4. Ryan Blaney +10

5. Tyler Reddick -10

6. Martin Truex Jr. -17

7. Denny Hamlin -17

8. Chris Buescher -43

The Round of 8 in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is set to conclude next weekend at Martinsville Speedway, which will determine the Championship 4 field. The event is scheduled to commence next Sunday, October 29, at 2 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


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