Christopher Bell Tracks Down Joey Logano At The Daytona Road Course For First Cup Series Winby Hunter Thomas February 21, 2021 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Christopher Bell became the second consecutive driver this season to capture a first-career NASCAR Cup Series win at Daytona International Speedway.
In the early hours of Monday morning, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell survived the last-lap chaos to earn his first-career win in the Daytona 500, and on Sunday, it was Bell who chased down Joey Logano and passed him to earn his first-career series win on the Daytona Road Course. This marks the first time since 1950 that a NASCAR Cup Series season has kicked off with two consecutive first-time winners.
“It feels like I’ve prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series,” Bell said. “Last year was a huge learning curve for me, and I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to run in Cup. It definitely prepared me to move for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Bell completed the race-winning pass on Joey Logano while rounding the final corners prior to receiving the white flag. The 26-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver had to make up more than three seconds on Logano in the closing laps of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253. Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Rheem Toyota earned his first victory in his 38th career NASCAR Cup Series start.
“Whenever we pitted and then we came out, I liked where we lined up, but then the yellows kept coming and I thought the yellows were hurting me because I felt like I needed laps to get back up through there,” Bell said. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get there, but Adam (Stevens, crew chief) up on the pit box kept telling me I was going to get there. I didn’t believe it, but he really struggled coming out of (turn) six one time and allowed me to close the gap. I just wish my wife was here to celebrate with me.”
Logano, who finished second in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, looked to be the driver to beat following the final restart of the afternoon, but he just didn’t have enough speed to keep Bell behind. The Team Penske driver led 10 laps throughout the race after starting 11th. In the Daytona 500, Logano was leading the pack into Turn 3 on the final lap before crashing, and on Sunday, he was leading the race just prior to taking the white flag.
“You hate being that close, but at the same time I look at where we’ve come from,” Logano said. “We had a really solid race. We were two solid stages, second and third in the stages, a second overall. That’s a great day any way you look at it.
“It’s just getting passed coming to the white flag stings a lot. Congratulations to Christopher, obviously, his first win. That one is very special. The way he did it was very impressive. Just stings a little bit for me at the moment if I’m being honest.”
Denny Hamlin has proven that he is a driver to compete with for a win on Daytona International Speedway’s oval configuration, and on Sunday, he finished third on the road course.
“We were third-best to be honest with you,” Hamlin said. “The 20 was fast there the second half of the race. Maybe I was fourth-best. I thought we were solid. Was trying to hold onto third or fourth fastest and that’s all I’ve got. I just have to get a little bit better. I have to keep getting better to put ourselves in position to win more.”
Kurt Busch ran off course while leading in the final stage, but he rebounded for a fourth-place finish. Brad Keselowski spun around a few times, and he rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick finished sixth, followed by AJ Allmendinger, McDowell, Ryan Preece and Alex Bowman.
There were 12 leads changes among seven drivers. Chase Elliott led a race high of 44 laps.
There were also eight cautions for 12 laps, and only two of the cautions were for multicar accidents.
Up next on the schedule for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, February 28. Live coverage will broadcast on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images