NASCAR

Christopher Bell pulls away for NASCAR Cup Series win at Phoenix Raceway

Mar 10, 2024, 4:33 PM | Updated: 5:00 pm

Christopher Bell...

Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 10, 2024 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

AVONDALE (AP) — Christopher Bell surged into the lead when Martin Truex Jr. was forced to pit and pulled away for an emotional NASCAR Cup Series win at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s victory comes on the heels of a pair of heartbreaks in the desert.

Two years ago, JGR vice chairman Coy Gibbs was found dead in his hotel room following his son Ty’s Xfinity season championship. Bell made it to the Cup Series championship four in November, but a broken rotor spoiled his championship hopes in the season finale at Phoenix.

Bell’s win in the No. 20 Toyota also ended Chevrolet’s perfect start to the season after winning the first three races. He is the eighth different winner in eight races at Phoenix Raceway’s mile tri-oval.

Chris Buescher finished second and Ty Gibbs was third. Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

The Phoenix race marked the debut of NASCAR’s new aerodynamics package for short tracks in hopes of producing more passing on tracks of a mile or less and road courses. Goodyear also produced tires with thicker treads designed to retain heat and increase lap-time falloff.

Starting 13th, Bell took advantage of the changes, overcoming two slow pit stops to charge back to the front. Bell moved into the lead with 40 laps to go when leader Truex had to pit for fuel and tires.

Bell led the final 49 laps for his seventh career Cup Series victory — first since Homestead in October.

Truex and his crew made calculated gamble on lap 217, opting to stay out when most of the leaders went into the pits.

The JGR driver stayed in the lead, hoping he would have enough fuel and his tires would hold out long enough to reach the checkered flag. Neither happened and Truex was forced to the pits. He finished seventh.

 

Denny Hamlin spins out

Pole sitter Denny Hamlin took advantage of having the first stall to twice take the lead out of the pits, but ran into trouble with about 100 laps left.

Trying to pass Reddick, Hamlin’s No. 11 car got loose and he spun out, causing a caution that sent most of the cars to the pits. Hamlin dropped to 23rd after a pit stop and finished 11th.

Austin Cindric had an early end to his day, a week after a spinout knocked him well back in the pack at Las Vegas.

Cindric completed six laps at Phoenix Raceway before being involved in a wreck with Austin Dillon and Derek Kraus. Dillon and Kraus were able to return to the track, but Cindric’s car was damaged too much.

Cindric finished 29th at Las Vegas and was in contention at the Daytona 500 before getting caught up in a late wreck.

“I felt like I got hit twice,” Cindric said. “I knew the 3 (Dillon) was on the inside, but I thought he would fall back but he came back up. It’s just a product of not qualifying well.”

The Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee next weekend.

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