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“Terribly Disappointing” Top Five for Bell at Bristol

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. — While many playoff drivers suffered issues throughout the Round of 16, Christopher Bell glided into the second round. He became the only driver to clinch a spot last weekend at Kansas Speedway, meaning he could race at Bristol on Saturday without any pressure.

Bell fell short of his second 2022 victory last weekend and wanted to redeem himself. His only focus was to win and add more playoff points.

Bell started Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race in eighth and contended for the Stage 1 victory, but fell short to Brad Keselowski and settled for nine stage points.

Race winner Chris Buescher won the race off pit road and led for 108 laps before Bell passed him with 12 laps until the stage break. Bell secured an important playoff point with his Stage 2 win.

Bell led in Stage 3 up until Lap 356 and took it back on Lap 414. But on Lap 435, he blew a tire, resulting in a caution. Fortunately for Bell, he minimized damage and clawed back for a fourth-place finish at Bristol.

But, he wanted much more.

“It’s terribly disappointing,” Bell told USA Network after the race. “That’s two weeks in a row we have had speed, and the car underneath me to win the race, and haven’t done it. Extremely proud of this 20 group. They keep bringing Camrys that are incredible to the race track.”

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

Bell notched his spot in the playoffs by winning at New Hampshire in July. He has 10 top fives, tied for third best in the NASCAR Cup Series, and seven top 10s, tied for second.

After recording top fives in each Round of 16 race, Bell took a 22-point lead over William Byron in driver’s points. But after the reseed entering the Round of 12, Bell dropped back down to seventh, four points above the cutline.

Next week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway kicks off the second round of the playoffs, a notoriously difficult three-week stretch. Bell has a pair of top fives in three Cup Series starts at Texas, as well as a win in the Xfinity Series.

Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL conclude the Round of 12, two very unpredictable tracks.

“It makes me really excited about where we are going, especially Texas – which is one of my best race tracks,” Bell said. “Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix. Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys. Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a Playoff car.”

Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.

Nathan Solomon is a junior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. He serves as the managing editor for his campus newspaper, The BonaVenture, and as the programming director for his campus radio station, WSBU 88.3FM. The station is rated the No. 4 college radio station in the country by Princeton Review. Solomon started his journalism career in 2018 when he began covering hometown Cornell basketball for IvyHoopsOnline. In 2019, Solomon joined Empire Sports Media to contribute baseball content and started covering NASCAR for the outlet in 2020. In 2021, he covered his first two NASCAR races with Empire Sports Media. Solomon joined TPF in September of 2021 and became managing editor in spring of 2022. He is also an NMPA journalist.

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