RACE: O’Reilly Auto Parts 253
TRACK: Daytona Road Course
LAPS: 70 laps
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-16)
- Christopher Bell took the green flag for the second race of the season from the 12th position Sunday afternoon at the Daytona Road Course.
- Bell gained a few spots over the opening run and was running eighth on lap 11 when the caution came out. The field pitted and Bell was the only car to remain on the track.
- Bell led the field to the green flag with two laps remaining in stage one, but fresher tires prevailed, and the No. 20 slipped back to 12th to close out stage one.
- At the stage break, Bell came down pit road for four tires and fuel.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 17-34)
- Bell started 17th and finished fourth in stage two.
- Being off pit sequence put Bell in the middle of the field to start stage two, but with a fast No. 20 Rheem Toyota he was able to work his way through the field.
- By the end of stage two on lap 34 Bell had worked his way up to fourth and reported that the car felt pretty good.
- Crew chief Adam Stevens called Bell down pit road at the stage break for four tires and fuel.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 37-70)
- Bell started stage three fifth and crossed the finish line first.
- From the drop of the green flag Bell was on the move and took over second on the opening lap.
- Two laps later the leader got loose and into the grass, clearing the way for Bell to lead the field around the 3.61-mile road course at Daytona.
- Bell was passed a few laps later but stayed on the heels of the leader, even through a round of green flag pit stops.
- A caution for rain came out with 15 laps remaining. Bell came down pit road from second for four tires and fuel. With a fast stop by his pit crew he was the first off pit road, but others remained on the track, lining him up 11th for the restart with 12 laps to go.
- Multiple cautions unfolded as the laps dwindled down and Bell continued to make up positions with each restart.
- The final restart came with eight laps remaining. Bell started seventh and raced his way up to third. While racing hard to take over second place the No. 20 sustained some front fender damage and a slight tire rub. Luckily it wasn’t too severe, and Bell was able to continue on.
- With five laps remaining Bell took over second place and began racing down the leader. On the final lap Bell was able to take over the lead to earn his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.
- Christopher Bell led Joe Gibbs Racing’s four-car contingent taking home the win and earning his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Denny Hamlin finished third, Martin Truex Jr. was 12th and Kyle Busch finished 35th.
- Bell led three different times for a total of five laps to earn his first victory in the Cup Series, locking himself into the 2021 Playoff field.
1st How does this feel?
“I don’t know, this is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far. I’m just so incredibly thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing with all of our partners – Rheem, DeWalt, Pristine Auction, Toyota, TRD. Thank you to Jack Irving and Tyler Gibbs. You guys believed in me since day one. It feels like I’ve prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series. Last year was a huge learning curve for me, and I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to run in Cup. It definitely prepared me to move for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
After you got past Kurt Busch with five to go, did you think you had a shot at catching Joey Logano?
“No, I really didn’t. Whenever we pitted and then we came out, I liked where we lined up, but then the yellows kept coming and I thought the yellows were hurting me because I felt like I needed laps to get back up through there. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get there, but Adam (Stevens, crew chief) up on the pit box kept telling me I was going to get there. I didn’t believe it, but he really struggled coming out of (turn) six one time and allowed me to close the gap. I just wish my wife was here to celebrate with me.”
Can you describe your emotions after getting your first career Cup Series win?
“I don’t know, it’s unbelievable. Watching last night and seeing Ty (Gibbs) win was such a special moment. I was so proud of Ty. Obviously Joe Gibbs Racing does a great job giving everybody great equipment. I knew that going into this year that I was going to have to perform. Just really, really proud to be here. Really proud for all of our partners at Rheem, DeWalt, Pristine Auctions – it’s a dream come true.”
With less than five laps to go, you had to make up more than three seconds. Did you think you could catch Joey Logano?
“I just kept doing what I was doing all day long. Whenever we took the green flag, I felt like I was really patient. Kyle (Busch) tried to go three-wide around me at the start. I knew that I was okay. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) kept asking what I needed in the car and I didn’t really need anything. Just took my time to get going, get up to speed and really proud to be here.”
How hard have you worked to get better on the road courses?
“It’s just seat time and experience and doing it. They’re a lot of fun. They’re fun to run. Last year, I guess the two years in Xfinity, we got a bunch of road courses run so that probably helped me out a lot. This year we got nine of them I think so better get good at it.”
Next Up: The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the next stop on the 2021 schedule. The race will be broadcast live Sunday, February 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX.