AVONDALE, Ariz. — Christopher Bell produced more speed with his car over a long green-flag run than it seemed any other driver could Sunday, capturing the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

Bell led the final 41 laps on his way to his seventh career win and his first of the 2024 season.

“You don’t get cars like that very often,” Bell said. “[I’m] just super, super proud. … I feel like we have (the) capability of running races like this a lot.

“Hopefully this is the first of many this year.”

The victory made 2024 the fourth consecutive year that Bell has won at least one race. His seven career wins have come on seven different tracks, and this one was a one-mile oval where the championship will be decided in November.

“We focused on some very specific things with our setup with this package, and he was able to really tell us how he wanted to run this race, the line he wanted to run,” Bell crew chief Adam Stevens said. “We optimized to it.”

“I think we just hit it better than everybody, and that made that gap to the field today. But he’s really, really good everywhere we go. He’s an exceptional short-track racer. He showed that today.”

Below are takeaways from a race where Bell was followed across the finish line by Chris Buescher, Ty Gibbs, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney.

NASCAR Cup Series: Shriners Children’s 500 Highlights

Breaks finally go Bell’s way

In last November’s championship race, Bell had a brake rotor blow, ending his title hopes before the race’s midway point.

If that wasn’t enough of a bad memory when he rolled into Phoenix this weekend, he also was coming off a Las Vegas race in which he sustained a flat tire early, which followed an Atlanta race that ended early with an accident. 

So Bell got to shake those frustrations.

“I was not angry [coming in here] — I was just sad,” Bell said. “I suck at trying to stay upbeat after a run of bad races. Atlanta was furthest from my fault, but it’s still a 30-whatever-fourth place finish. We had a 33rd-place finish last week. 

“I was pretty sad. I try not to let that affect my driving. We showed up on Friday and had a bunch of pace, had a really good practice, so I was feeling a lot better.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver made it a fun race to watch at times, as he had to come back from 10th or worse because of a bad pit stop at one point and then getting shuffled back with a four-tire pit stop under green only to rally again.

“My car was not very good whenever I was back in traffic,” Bell said. “On the restarts, I struggled to move forward. It took me a couple laps for the field to get strung out before I could start making passes. That was disheartening. … I wasn’t thinking [I could] win at all until I got to third.”

‘Just super, super proud!’ – Christopher Bell reflects on Shriners Children’s 500 victory

Hamlin, Reddick disappointed

Denny Hamlin and Tyler Reddick were battling for the lead for much of the race and both led 68 laps. They finished with Reddick in 10th and Hamlin in 11th.

Reddick, who appeared to have the second-best car behind Bell, said he lost the balance of his car on the final run.

“I just couldn’t get by people, just couldn’t get around people,” Reddick said. “We were just kind of stuck. We weren’t that great that last run. … Whatever it was, we were lucky to run 10th [there].”

Hamlin had to rally following a spin, the result of contact with Reddick after a restart.

“I got beat on a few restarts by the 45 [of Tyler Reddick] on the high side,” Hamlin said. “So I decided to just try to keep pushing the entry [before lifting] as much as I could and I just couldn’t hold my line there.”

Denny Hamlin said his spin was all on him and gives thoughts after the race

Logano, LaJoie wrecked 

The biggest wreck of the day occurred when John Hunter Nemechek got into the back of Joey Logano. Corey LaJoie and Derek Kraus were also knocked out of the race by the accident.

Nemechek told his team over his in-car radio that he didn’t mean to get into Logano but that Logano slowed more than he expected.

Logano didn’t want to hear that.

“You have to lift to make the corners,” Logano said. “You can’t hold it wide open around Phoenix.

“Maybe he should take a look and realize he can’t do that. He drove straight into the back of me. He needs to be man enough to own up to that.”

LaJoie had a 44-race streak during which he was still running at the finish.

“You never like them, but to have them few and far between is always good,” LaJoie said. “You forget all the 44 when you’re standing here talking and there are still guys making circles.”

[Want great stories delivered right to your inbox? Create or log in to your FOX Sports account, follow leagues, teams and players to receive a personalized newsletter daily.]

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.

Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more

Source link