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Christopher Bell wins first win of the season in New Hampshire, reshuffling playoff picture

Christopher Bell has quietly established himself as a New England force over the past three years, climbing up the NASCAR rankings, and on Sunday afternoon he convincingly earned his biggest triumph there to date, a NASCAR Ambetter 301 Cup Series win and a ticket to the 2022 Playoffs. off.

Bell led the racer’s last 42 laps with a lap 301 at the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, taking the trophy – and the traditional Victory Lane lobster lift – with a massive 5.767-second win over last week’s race winner Chase Elliott.

RELATED: New Hampshire Results | Photos on the track

It’s only the second NASCAR Cup Series win for No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s third year, but it’s significant enough that the 27-year-old Oklahoma resident earns a temporary postseason spot. The 14th winner of the season entered the race and finished last among the top 16 drivers who made the playoffs. He has now solidified his hopes for a title run.

“Dude, this was badly needed right now,” said Bell, who won three consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track from 2019 to 2021 and finished second in last year’s NASCAR Cup Series race.

“I’ll tell you what, from my point of view, it was a hell of a race. It was a lot of fun racing 45th (Kurt Busch), 22nd (Joey Logano) and 9th (Elliott). We all ran on different lines. It was an explosion. I am so happy to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing and so excited to have this 20th car back on Victory Lane.”

“Winning Cup races is tough,” he added with a smile as he thanked the audience. “It just feels like we were close, but last week we got a bit distant. I was talking to my best friend and told him that earlier this year I felt like we were on the verge of winning. Then the last couple of weeks I felt like we were quite far away.

“But here we are today.”

Elliott, who hasn’t finished worse than second in his last four races (including two wins), said he just didn’t have anything for Bell at the very end.

“I feel just bad of me on the last run,” said Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. I wanted.

“Just make a couple of mistakes and you won’t have much room to breathe.”

A string of two best finishes did little to console the 2020 series champion.

“When you’re in the position we were in, you need to finish him off,” he said.

Bubba Wallace, the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota driver, had a big day in New Hampshire with a third-place finish—his second top-five finish of the season, but his first top-ten finish since a 10th-place finish in Kansas eight races ago.

“Just proud of the team, proud of myself, and proud of everyone in the store,” Wallace said, adding, “The last month has been hell for me, so good to be in the top five. This sport humbles you, so there are no surprises. You have to keep the task at hand, be mindful of your surroundings, and get the job done.”

Bell Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth, followed by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick.

The pole-seated Truex won both rounds—sixth and seventh in his series of the year—and led a race-best 182 laps; including the first 95 consecutive entrants to start the race.

His number 19 Toyota JGR seemed like a car to be beaten, but a two-wheel stop for him – and for Harvick – with 100 laps to go knocked the car off the track and he briefly fell out of the top ten before returning to his top five. best after fifth place in Talladega, Alabama, in April.

JGR’s Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, and 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10. Seventh place was Keselowski’s best result of the season in his first year as co-owner and driver of No. 6 RFK Racing Ford.

MORE: Keselowski, A. Dillon’s Wings Are Crunchy

Chastain finished 14th in the top 10 and Ryan Blaney finished 18th, leading to significant changes in the Cup standings. Chastain moved into second place, 67 points behind league leader Elliot. Blaney, who is still looking for his first win of the season, is now third.

Truex, who is also still in contention for a playoff win, is now in 16th and last place in the playoffs, 68 points ahead of Harvick, who also didn’t win in 2022.

The next race in the NASCAR Cup Series is the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 scheduled for next Sunday (3pm ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway.

Notes: The Cup garage inspection went off without a hitch, confirming Christopher Bell’s winner. … A multi-car crash unsettled four drivers in just four laps, knocking out Alex Bowman, Ty Dillon, Josh Bilicki and BJ McLeod. … The green flag was delayed by about 20 minutes due to a midday downpour and lightning in the area.

Contribute: staff reports

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