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Bell wins rain-affected, chaotic New Hampshire race

Written by Sean McKean


Credit - Torey Fox / NASCAR Digital Media

After a race delayed to six hours in length and rain-racing, it was Christopher Bell who survived to take victory in New England. This is Bell's third win of the season and second of his career at New Hampshire. He also completed the "weekend sweep," having won Saturday's Xfinity Series race.


As it unfolded


From the pole, Chase Elliott led the way decisively for the first 45 laps. However, considering his record here, Christopher Bell soon inherited the lead on lap 46. While Bell gapped the rest of the field until the end of stage one, Elliott fell into the clutches of Joey Logano.


The stage ended with little to write home about: Bell took the flag first followed by Logano and Elliott.


The beginning of stage two looked to be a similar story. Bell got away well and led all the way until the green flag pit stops. However, with Bell struggling to get the tyres warmed up, it was Martin Truex who cycled into the lead.


Shortly after pit stops, the first caution for an accident came out. Coming off Turn 2, Kaulig’s Daniel Hemric got out of shape and went for a spin. He drove away with no damage.


Also under the yellow flag, Hendrick’s Alex Bowman had smoke billowing out of his exhaust pipes. The issue proved to be terminal – becoming the race’s first DNF.


The next restart on lap 149 was led by Denny Hamlin and Logano, with the former taking the lead. Further back, now on fresh tyres, Truex and Bell battled hard for the net-lead.


However, the caution would come back out. Struggling with his car all day, Kyle Busch washed up the race track and hit Noah Gragson, sending both drivers into the wall. Both continued on but were damaged.


Hamlin defended his lead well on the next restart – albeit, with Truex a bit closer now. The pressure wouldn’t get to the #11, as he went on to win the second stage. He was followed closely by Truex and Logano


The final stage began immediately with a caution. Joey Logano, going into Turn 1, locked up the brakes and hit Chase Elliott to his outside. Elliott drove away mostly unscathed, but Logano had to lose a lot of time to fix a broken toelink.


On lap 200, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson led the way on the restart, but only one lap later, the caution came back out. This time, Corey Lajoie pinned Ryan Preece into the wall off Turn 2, sending the Spire driver into a spin. He drove away with no damage. 


This theme continued the next restart. While Reddick, Larson, and Hamlin battled hard for the lead, one of the race’s protagonists suffered major damage in a crash: Martin Truex. Coming off Turn 4, he was spun by a backmarker – having suffered a poor pit stop – subsequently hitting the outside wall hard. The damage would prove to ruin his running position, but he continued.


With rain in the air and Hamlin’s crew chief saying that “this restart will be key,” the green flag came back out on lap 215. While Reddick led the way, Hamlin started talking about rain coming down on the radio.


Right when he said this, the next caution came out. For the second time today, Kyle Busch went for a spin with help from Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse. He limped away.


Hamlin, Logano, and Truex battling for position | Credit - Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images

This caution would cause lengthy delays. With the rain beginning to come down, the rain tyres started being presented as an option, but visibility proved to be questionable. Subsequently, they brought the field down the pits.


Under the red flag, the rain intensified and even the possibility of a tornado loomed in the heads of race control. However, after nearly two hours of waiting, they found a dry spell and told the teams to put on the wet tyres.


Right after they began pacing again under yellow, a DNF immediately occurred. On lap 225, Kyle Busch’s brake rotor went and he hit the Turn 3 wall. The damage – as stated – was terminal.


Also under this caution, Corey Lajoie went for another spin. Unlike Busch, he was able to continue undamaged.


Reddick led the field to the green, and what ensued was racing in the rain on an oval. Drivers fanned out four and five-wide trying to find grip. Drivers such as Chase Elliott and Josh Berry made up 10+ positions.


It didn’t take long for the caution to come out though. Coming out of turn four on lap 234, Ross Chastain got into the throttle too aggressively, going for a spin.


On the lap 242 restart, it appeared as if Reddick got away well, but it was Christopher Bell who quickly dispatched of the two-time Xfinity Series champion to take the lead. Other fast movers included Chase Briscoe and Chris Buescher.


As Larson and Reddick began to battle, it allowed Ryan Blaney to move into second with 52 laps to go.


Before any more drivers could make up ground, the caution came out yet again with 45 laps to go. Also yet again, it was Corey Lajoe who lost control on the exit of Turn 2. He continued with minimal damage.


With drivers now more confident in the damp conditions, the green flag came back out with 39 laps to go. But it didn’t take long for the yellow to come back out. Going into Turn 1, Noah Gragson lost grip and spun back up the track, collecting Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace. Other cars – such as Austin Cindric, Erik Jones, and John Hunter Nemechek – spun in avoidance. 


Many were damaged, but damage would be terminal for Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace – the former with a big hit regarding their playoff hopes.


Under this caution period, NASCAR finally allowed the teams to pit their cars. However, the pit stops would be noncompetitive and they had to stay on the wet tyre. With this, every driver and team took this opportunity.


Bell kept the lead when the green flag came back out, but it was clear that it would be a three-horse race between Bell, Blaney, and Larson.


With 18 laps to go, Carson Hocevar – who had been tumbling down the order – brought out the caution. He spun all by himself going into Turn 3. He drove away unscathed.


While the teams were begging race control to let the teams change their tyres, NASCAR didn’t budge, so no tyre changes were permitted for this caution period.


However, race control reverted their decision; thus, teams went down pit road to change their wet tyres to new ones – still noncompetitive. 


Credit - Sean Gardner / Getty Images

The race restarted with nine laps remaining, but as quick as it started it was neutralised. Michael McDowell, with his playoff hopes hinging on a win, sent it into Turn 1. However, he washed up into Blaney and sent both vehicles into a spin.


With four laps to go, Christopher Bell once more led the field to the green. Bell got away well but Josh Berry got within two car lengths by two laps remaining. However, a spin from Brad Keselowski sent the race into overtime.


For what was hopefully the final restart, Bell led the field yet again. While the SHR teammates of Briscoe and Berry battled, Christopher Bell won one of the longest races in New Hampshire. Chase Briscoe takes second ahead of teammate Josh Berry in third. Kyle Larson limped home to fourth. Chris Buescher takes important points in fifth at the end.


Tyler Reddick faded by the end to sixth. Ricky Stenhouse takes his second consecutive top ten in seventh. John Hunter Nemechek drove to eighth at the end for his third top ten of the season. Martin Truex took a badly damaged car to ninth. Rounding out the top ten was Ross Chastain.


After that insane race, catch the next bit of NASCAR action next Sunday as they tackle the 1.3-mile concrete oval of Nashville. 


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