RACE: Coca-Cola 600
TRACK: Charlotte Motor Speedway
LAPS: 405 laps
Bell Earns Top-10 Finish in First Coca-Cola 600
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-96)
- Christopher Bell qualified 15th for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Qualifying was the first time the field was on track at Charlotte and the only laps before the start of 600 miles.
- Right from the start Bell had a fast No. 95 Rheem Camry and by the competition caution on lap 20 was up to 11th on the track. Bell pitted under the competition caution for four tires and fuel.
- The field resumed racing on lap 27 and by lap 29 Bell cracked the top 10 and was running solidly inside the top 10 when the caution came out for rain. The race was red flagged for just over an hour for the rains to pass and NASCAR to dry the track.
- Contact from behind late in stage one turned the No. 95 sideways, but Bell was able to straighten out his Rheem Camry and continue. The tires were used up from the spin, but Bell was able to remain on the lead lap to close out stage one.
- Needing to be tightened up, Bell pitted at the stage break for four tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 106-200)
- Bell started 20th and finished 17th in stage two.
- Stage two started with a long green flag run and Bell reported to his team that he needed a little help on exit. On lap 154, under green, Bell came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment while the field cycled through green flag pit stops.
- Bell finished up the caution free stage 17th and said his car felt really balanced but the splitter was hitting the bumps in turn three.
- At the stage break Bell pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The team was also able to fix the side skirt that was folded under from the spin in stage one.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 208-300)
- Bell started stage three 15th and crossed the finish line 16th.
- Bell reported that the No. 95 needed to a be a tick freer. There were two opportunities to pit during stage two. The first pit stop came as green flag stops cycled through the field and the other under caution on lap 276. Both times Bell received four tires, fuel and wedge adjustments.
- Some contact on the track caused a slight tire problem, but Bell was able to finish out stage three 16th.
- Bell pitted at the stage break for four tires, fuel, a wedge adjustment and to fix the right rear from the contact on track.
Stage 4 Recap (Laps 307-400)
- Bell started stage four 18th and crossed the finish line 10th.
- Over the final stage the No. 95 was experiencing moments of tight handling and moments of loose handling with Bell running 15th.
- Bell pitted under caution on lap 350 for four tires and fuel, returning to the track 15th to tackle the final 50 laps.
- As the laps wound down Bell worked his way up to 12th on the track. A caution came out on lap 398, setting the field up for an overtime run to the finish.
- Crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down for fresh tires to take the final restart.
- Bell restarted 16th and was able to capitalize on fresher tires to work his way through the field for a 10th-place finish. A NASCAR Cup Series career-best finish for Bell in his first Coca-Cola 600.
How good does it feel to see improvement over these couple of races?
“I think we are headed in the right direction. We have to obviously keep making gains – getting a little bit faster, me doing a better job. We’re gaining on it. We are creeping up on it. I think we snuck a little bit of a better finish out than what we probably deserved, but we will take it after the first couple weeks.”
What was it like running the Coke 600 for the first time and what did you learn?
“That was a long one. Whenever we had that rain break, obviously, we did not want to see that, because we were just getting into a rhythm. The first 50 went by pretty quick, but the last 50 seemed to drag on a bit. I’m glad I got to experience the full Coke 600, because now all of the rest of them are going to be shorter than that.”
Early in the race, what went into the save after the contact with Ryan Blaney?
“The 12 car (Ryan Blaney) was probably a little faster than me at that point. I guess he just ran in the back of me, and thankfully I was able to get it back under control and we didn’t go a lap down. That could have really been a day ruiner, but luckily it worked out to where we were able to stay on the lead lap.”
Up Next: The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, May 27th for the Alsco Uniforms 500. The race will be broadcast at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.