By Associated PressSports Writer3 Minute Read
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Despite falling to 22nd after Stage 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway due to balance issues with his Toyota, Christopher Bell emerged as the unexpected winner of the race. Taking advantage of a late caution in Stage 3, Bell made an impressive comeback to seize his second victory of the season.
“Winning wasn’t on my mind throughout the race, except maybe in the last 10 laps,” reflected Bell.
With only 15 laps remaining, Bell surged into the lead and successfully held off Ryan Blaney to secure his spot in next month’s NASCAR championship finale. This win propelled Bell, who initially entered the race below the playoff cut line, to compete in his second consecutive championship race. Out of the 267 laps in the race, Bell led for just 26.
“Today was an absolute whirlwind,” commented Bell, who drives the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing. “To overcome such a difficult position… it’s incredible what a few pit stop adjustments can do to improve your car.”
The race witnessed a total of 25 lead changes, only one shy of the track’s record set in 2011.
Blaney, who led for 53 laps, now sits above the cut line, rising from seventh. The battle for a spot in the November 5th title-deciding finale continues between Tyler Reddick and William Byron, who finished third and fourth, respectively.
In the final race of the round of eight at Martinsville Speedway next week, six drivers will compete for the remaining two positions.
Last year’s Homestead winner, Kyle Larson, retired from the race at Lap 214. He collided with the pit road barriers while attempting to overtake Blaney for the lead. Larson admitted to underestimating Blaney’s early slowdown.
“I was pushing my limits,” frustrated Larson expressed. “I feel terrible for Ryan. He was performing exceptionally well in the race. It was never my intention. I only wanted to get as close to him as possible, hoping for a good cycle and a better pit stop that would place me ahead to control the race.”
Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet made contact with the rear of Blaney’s Ford, but Blaney was able to pit as the caution flag was raised, allowing him to continue.
Throughout the race, Larson had dominated, leading for 96 laps until Blaney edged ahead in the late stages of Stage 2. This outcome bears little impact on Larson’s playoff prospects since his victory in the opening race of the round of eight in Las Vegas has already ensured his presence in the finale.
Following the crash, the race briefly became a duel between Blaney and Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing, who took the lead on the restart. However, a wreck involving JJ Yeley, Brad Keselowski, and Ross Chastain moments later caused the fifth caution of the race, ultimately creating an opportunity for Bell’s comeback.
After the restart, Hamlin crashed into the wall on Turn 1, signalling a steering breakdown. With 32 laps remaining, Hamlin’s race came to an unfortunate end. Moments later, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, playoff driver Martin Truex Jr., also withdrew due to an engine issue.
Both playoff drivers will look for a better outcome in next week’s race.
“We still have a chance,” owner Joe Gibbs asserted. “That’s how we see it. We’re heading to Martinsville, and I anticipate a classic race. But we definitely have a chance.”
The race was named the 4EVER 400 presented by Mobil 1 in honor of Kevin Harvick from Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick, with 60 career victories and three NASCAR national series championships, will retire from NASCAR at the end of this season. Sunday marked his final race at the track where he captured the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship nine years ago. Harvick finished in 11th place.
NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway next Sunday for the final race in the round of eight. Bell returns as the defending race winner.
Olivia Carter revs up excitement in the world of NASCAR. As a dedicated motorsports enthusiast, she covers race results, driver profiles, and the latest developments in the NASCAR world, keeping fans on the edge of their seats.