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Christopher Bell’s Late Drive at COTA Falls Short

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell during Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at COTA. (Photo: John Arndt | The Podium Finish)

DEL VALLE, Texas — Christopher Bell had a miraculous late drive through the field that nearly resulted in a victory, but he fell just short of William Byron to place second at Circuit of the Americas.

After Bell and his No. 20 team started Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix fourth, they decided early that they’d stay out and earn stage points if all cars in front of them pitted. That’s exactly what happened. On Laps 11 and 12, the leaders filtered down pit road for service while Bell cruised to a Stage 1 victory, taking advantage of the reintroduced yellow flags at stage breaks.

The Joe Gibbs Racing team elected to make just two stops throughout the 68-lapper, meaning Bell got mired in traffic during Stage 2. He pitted on Lap 23 and wasn’t in position to earn any more stage points, coming across 20th.

While most cars again pitted before the stage, it made timing for Bell’s final stop difficult — especially if the race stayed green. The No. 20 car pulled off for service on Lap 48 and had a lengthy stop to refuel and get fresh tires.

From that point on, Bell blasted through the field and worked on eliminating a 10-second defecit. As Byron had to save some fuel, a hard-charging Bell passed teammated Ty Gibbs with three to go and nearly chased down the Hendrick Motorsports driver for the win. Despite getting within a second, Byron held off Bell for the victory.

“When I got close to him it was going to be tough to pass him. I needed a couple of mistakes,” Bell said postrace. “William has been really, really good on the road courses and he was flawless when it mattered today.

“It seems like another lap, and I would have got there for sure with our DEWALT Camry.”

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell tracks down Ty Gibbs late at COTA. (Photo: John Arndt | The Podium Finish)

Dating back to Watkins Glen in August, Byron has won two of the last three road course races.

“Christopher is really good. It seems like when he gets a taste of the win, at the end he turns it up,” Byron said in his winner’s press conference. “I knew that last lap he was going to be pushing hard. Rudy gave me an idea of how much gap I had. I kind of did the math in my head coming off of turn one. If I don’t mess up, I think I’m going to be fine. But yeah, he was pushing hard.”

Though Bell recorded his fourth top 10 of the season and third in a row, it didn’t come without a few fireworks. On Lap 22, Bell sent Kyle Larson, a longtime dirt track rival, spinning. On Lap 41, the same thing happened to Kyle Busch in Turn 1 after Bell dove in deep and bumped into his left-rear corner.

After the race, Busch approached Bell in front of his car on pit road and expressed displeasure toward his former teammate.

“The Larson deal – I completely take ownership of. I’m completely sorry about that and had no intention of that,” Larson said, addressing the incidents. “The Kyle Busch incident was a little bit different because I wasn’t trying to make a move or pass him. He opened his entry up because he was too wide, and I was obviously under him when he came down. I had no intentions of spinning him out at all.

“KB is frustrated about what happened in Turn 1, and I don’t know. They were two-wide going in there and I haven’t seen a replay yet. I had no intentions of turning him and we will talk about it before the next race.”

Bell sits sixth in driver’s points after earning 45 points at COTA, only two fewer than Byron. He recorded his sixth road course top five and his second at COTA.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns on March 31 for an Easter Sunday primetime race at Richmond Raceway. The Toyota Owners 400 is set for 7 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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