Christopher Bell wins at Charlotte Roval as Kyle Larson gets eliminated

Christopher Bell got his second win of the season at Charlotte on Sunday and is moving to the third round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Christopher Bell’s NASCAR Cup Series title hopes are still alive. Kyle Larson’s are not.

Bell used fresh tires to get the lead late in what had been a staid race at the Charlotte Roval to get into the third round of the playoffs while the 2021 Cup Series champion was eliminated on the final lap.

Bell went from seventh to first over the final two chaotic green-flag runs. A caution for a sign that fell onto the track with less than six laps to go was the first non-stage caution of the day. And the race’s final laps turned into the circus they typically are at the Roval.

Larson missed out on going to the third round of the playoffs because of a toe link issue on the rear wheels of the car. Larson’s team elected to spend time on pit road fixing the car assuming that the race would continue to be straightforward as it was. But that was before the sign caution happened.

Austin Cindric and Daniel Suarez were eliminated from the playoffs along with Larson. Alex Bowman also won’t advance to the third round as he missed the final two races of the second round after suffering a concussion in a crash at Texas.

Bell, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Briscoe are the eight drivers who are still alive in the playoffs.

Larson said after the race that he was “mad at myself” for hitting the wall to break the toe link on his car. Larson said there was “no other person to blame than myself” for what happened at Charlotte on Sunday as he was five laps down after his team fixed the car. Larson also said that he had made “way too many mistakes” over the course of 2022 for him to win the championship.

“I wasn’t even pushing that hard at that moment and got loose and caught me off-guard,” Larson said about hitting the wall.

How Bell won

Bell was seventh and the first driver with fresh tires after the caution for the sign. He worked his way up to second before another caution was thrown for a piece of a chicane curb in the middle of the track. Bell restarted alongside leader Kevin Harvick for the race’s final restart and had the lead through the first few turns and drove away from Harvick thanks to his fresher tires.

Chase Elliott would have easily won the race if it wasn’t for the caution sign. But Elliott lost the lead to Harvick on the penultimate restart and then went spinning off Tyler Reddick’s bumper. Harvick went for the lead on that restart by getting past Elliott and moving AJ Allmendinger out of the way for the lead. But he didn’t have a chance against Bell’s fresher tires after Bell started working his way through the pack.

Elliott had gotten the lead on the final green-flag pit stop sequence of the race because he pitted before Allmendinger and Reddick. The race was very straightforward before the sign fell down as drivers found it extremely difficult to pass and the stage cautions dissuaded any varying strategies. At one point, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NBC booth even remarked that drivers had to make their moves in the seconds after race restarts because “Once these cars get single-filed out, passing is nonexistent.”

How Briscoe Got In

Briscoe was a part of the mess over the last few laps as drivers seemingly went spinning and crashing everywhere as they refused to cede position to each other. He found himself outside the top eight ahead of the final restart but pitted for tires after the red flag and got some help from Cindric when he spun around.

Briscoe also got some serious help from teammate Cole Custer. Look at how much Custer slowed down entering the backstretch chicane to back up Austin Dillon and Eric Jones. Briscoe already had the tiebreaker on Larson at that point but easily made the third round thanks to Custer’s abrupt braking.

In case you were wondering, Custer ended up finishing 24th and 15 spots behind Briscoe.

Race results

1. Christopher Bell

2. Kevin Harvick

3. Kyle Busch

4. AJ Allmendinger

5. Justin Haley

6. Chris Buescher

7. Bubba Wallace

8. Tyler Reddick

9. Chase Briscoe

10. Austin Dillon

11. Eric Jones

12. Corey LaJoie

13. Denny Hamlin

14. Brad Keselowski

15. Aric Almirola

16. William Byron

17. Martin Truex Jr.

18. Joey Logano

19. Ricky Stanhouse Jr.

20. Chase Elliott

21. Austin Cindric

22. Ty Gibbs

23. Noah Gragson

24. Cole Custer

25. Ty Dillon

26. Ryan Blaney

27. Michael McDowell

28. Harrison Burton

29. Mike Rockefeller

30. Todd Gilliland

31. Josh Williams

32. JJ Yeley

33. Loris Hezemans

34. Conor Daly

35. Kyle Larson

36. Daniel Suarez

37. Ross Chastain

38. Joey Hand

39. Daniil Kvyat

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