Christopher Bell races once again into the NASCAR Championship Four with a win at Homestead-Miami
Other title contenders stumble
By Dave Hascall
(Homestead, Florida) Christopher Bell didn’t wait until the final race in the NASCAR Cup Round of 8 to secure himself into the Championship Four, he did it a week early. Last year, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver waited until Martinsville to secure his chance to race for a championship but he secured his place by winning the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Bell raced very close to the lead but Denny Hamlin and last week’s winner Kyle Larson seemed to be the stars of Sunday’s race along with Ryan Blaney; but fate intervened. Larson was trailing leader Blaney as they came to pit road for what was the final green flag pitstop of the day. Larson misjudged how much Blaney was slowing and bumped the back of Blaney’s car and then walloped the sand barrels at the end of pit road. Blaney continued but Larson’s day was over.
When the race restarted, Blaney led before another caution and restart. On that restart, Bell led with perennial championship bridesmaid Denny Hamlin battling Blaney. After clearing Blaney for second, Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota went into the wall with an apparent mechanical failure. As he was retiring his car to the garage area, teammate Martin Truex Jr suffered an engine failure and he was out of the running. Bell won the race over Blaney, Tyler Reddick, William Byron, and A.J. Allmendinger.
This race isn’t an elimination round but next week’s race at the Martinsville short track will set the final two spots in the Championship Four. Larson and Bell are locked in. Presently Blaney and Byron are in with Hamlin, Truex, Reddick, and Chris Buescher on the outside.
Sam Mayer took the Xfinity Series win at Miami over last week’s winner Riley Herbst. Mayer advances into the Championship Four at Phoenix. Martinsville will be an elimination race. Carson Hocevar took the Craftsman Truck Series win. Hocevar, Corey Heim, Ben Rhodes, and Grant Enfinger, will race for the Truck Series championship in two weeks in Phoenix. Nick Sanchez, Christian Eckes, Ty Majeski and Zane Smith have been eliminated from the Truck playoffs.