Christopher Bell Wins, Races into Round of 8

Christopher Bell
Christopher Bell (20) does a burnout after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)(Matt Kelley | AP)

Christopher Bell was up against the wall. He was too far back in points to advance in the NASCAR playoffs unless he won the final race of the Round of 12. And that’s exactly what he did, taking the checkered flag at the Charlotte Roval, cementing his place in the Round of 8 and taking out the defending champion in the process.


A timely pit stop and NASCAR overtime helped Christopher Bell keep his slim championship hopes alive at the most crucial time. During the green-white-checker, Bell passed Kevin Harvick and sped away for his second win of the season. Bell did not have the fastest car, but his crew chief made smart decisions taking advantage of late race cautions to get him the victory. The win also vaulted Bell to fourth in points going into the round of 8. If he can hold serve in his position, Bell will be in the Championship 4 come the final race at Phoenix.


While it was a banner day for Bell, it was the furthest thing from it for defending Monster Energy Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson. He crashed late in the race, damaging his car and leaving him five laps down. It wound up being too steep of a hill to climb, as he missed the cutoff by two points and was one of four drivers no longer eligible for a championship. In a post race interview, Larson blamed himself and too many mistakes throughout the season for his elimination.


Chase Briscoe finished two points ahead of Larson ensuring his spot in the round of 8. It was a wild finish when you consider he was sitting below the cutoff line on the last restart. Daytona 500 winner and fellow playoff driver Austin Cindric spun on the final restart, and Briscoe surged past him to gain enough points to pass both Cindric and Larson and advance. Briscoe sits last of the championship contenders, but he’s still alive with four races left in the season.


Rick Hendrick Racing lost half of its championship contenders this round. Larson was in the running until his late crash, and Alex Bowman sat out his second straight race with concussion symptoms. While it’s a tough way for Bowman’s season to end, head injuries have to be taken seriously, so it was the right call to sit out. Daniel Suárez and Austin Cindric joined Larson and Bowman in elimination. Cindric, of course, spun out on the final restart. Suárez’s car lost power steering, and he finished the race in 36th.


This sets up an interesting Round of 8. There are two former champions still alive in Chase Elliott and Joey Logano. Denny Hamlin remains a grizzled veteran looking for his first championship. Ryan Blaney was the only driver in the playoffs who hadn’t won a race this season, and he’s still looking for that first win. Plus, there’s four hungry young guns in William Byron, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain. I picked Hamlin to win it all in my first playoff preview and I’m sticking with him. But, this is going to be fun.

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