Bell tops Logano on Daytona Road Course for first Cup win

Christopher Bell muscled his way around Joey Logano with one lap remaining and held on to claim his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.

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Logano had led 10 of the final 13 laps but on the next-to-last lap, Bell made up considerable ground on him and entering the frontstretch chicane of the Daytona Road Course, Bell powered to his inside and came away the leader to start the final lap.

He deftly navigated the last of the 70 laps and ended up winning by 2.119 seconds – his first career win in 38 starts.

Bell, 26, is the second consecutive first-time winner in the Cup Series to start the 2021 season. Michael McDowell won last weekend’s Daytona 500.

“I don’t know, this is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far. I’m just so incredibly thankful to be here at Joe Gibbs Racing with all of our partner. Thank you to Jack Irving and Tyler Gibbs. You guys believed in me since day one,” Bell said.

“It feels like I’ve prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series. 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.”

Asked if he thought he had a chance to run down Logano for the win after passing Kurt Busch for second, Bell said: “No, I really didn’t. 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.

“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) 6 one time and allowed me to close the gap.

“I just wish my wife was here to celebrate with me.”

Bell said capturing his first Cup win a day after Ty Gibbs won in his Xfinity Series debut was “Unbelievable.”

“Seeing Ty (Gibbs) win was such a special moment. I was so proud of Ty. Obviously, Joe Gibbs Racing does a great job giving everybody great equipment,” he said.

“I knew that going into this year that I was going to have to perform. Just really, really proud to be here. It’s a dream come true.”

Denny Hamlin finished third, Kurt Busch was fourth and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 were Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, McDowell, Buescher and Alex Bowman.

Chase Elliott, who led the most laps in the race (44), wrecked after contact with Hamlin late in the race and finished 21st.

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Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead-lap cars pit but Daniel Suarez stayed out and inherited the lead.

Allmendinger was penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field as Kurt Busch was the first to complete his stop.

On the restart on Lap 38, Suarez was followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Kurt Busch, Hamlin and Bell. Elliott restarted sixth.

Kurt Busch quickly powered to the lead after the restart as the 99 moved into second.

On Lap 39, Kurt Busch spun off the course while leading, moving Bell into the top spot as Elliott moved into second.

 

Elliott went to the inside of Bell in Turn 1 on Lap 41 and quickly powered back into the lead.

With 25 laps remaining in the race, Elliott maintained a 1.7-second lead over Bell with Martin Truex Jr. in third. Logano ran fourth and Kyle Busch had rallied to fifth.

With 20 laps to go, several lead-lap cars began making their final green-flag pit stop for tires and fuel to make it to the finish, including Truex, Bowman, Ryan Preece and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Several more followed with 19 laps to go. Elliott and Bell came to pit road with 18 to go, as did Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Once the cycle of stops was completed, Elliott returned to the lead followed by Bell, Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.

NASCAR displayed a caution on Lap 57 as light rain began falling in some areas of the track. For the remainder of the race, it would be up to teams whether to utilize wet weather tires.

Several lead-lap cars pit but Logano remained on the track and inherited the lead. None of the top contenders elected to take on wet weather tires.

On the restart on Lap 59, Logano was followed by Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Buescher and Corey LaJoie. Elliott restarted 15th.

Tyler Reddick ran off course through the infield and his No. 8 Chevrolet hit some signage and broke out into a brief fire to bring out a caution. Elliott also briefly ran off course but was able to return to the track.

 

On the restart on Lap 61, Logano led the way followed by Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Buescher and Keselowski. Elliott restarted 14th.

After multiple spins in Turn 1 on the restart, caution again was displayed for LaJoie wrecking in Turn 5 after contact with Elliott. Truex also spun and went off course, losing numerous positions.

The race returned to green on Lap 63 with Logano out front followed by Kurt Busch, Briscoe, Keselowski and Larson.

Larson plowed into the Turn 6 wall on the restart lap, and Kyle Busch slammed into the frontstretch wall starting Lap 64 – but neither brought out a caution.

 

Elliott spun after contact with Hamlin with six laps remaining as Logano continued to lead the way.

Briscoe was black-flagged with three laps remaining when the hood of his car came up over his front windshield after suffering damage on the track.

With two laps to go, Logano maintained a 1.1-second lead over Bell with Hamlin having moved into third.

Stage 2

Hamlin cruised to the Stage 2 win over Kurt Busch, his third stage win in the first two races of the 2021 season.

Busch edged Logano at the line for second. Bell was fourth and Truex rounded out the top-five.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, several lead lap cars pit but Elliott remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 20.

Hamlin moved into second after the restart followed by Logano and Truex.

With 10 laps remaining in the second stage, Elliott had already run out to a more than 2-second lead over Hamlin with Truex having moved into third.

On Lap 26, Truex got around Hamlin and set his sights on Elliott but was more than 3.3 seconds behind the leader.

After contact with Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain wrecked in Turn 6 on Lap 27 to bring out the caution, erasing Elliott’s nearly 3-second lead.

 

Most of the lead-lap cars pit but Allmendinger was among a small group that stayed out and he inherited the lead when the race restarted on Lap 30.

Hamlin got around Allmendinger through the infield course on Lap 31 to take the lead for the first time in the race.

Stage 1

Elliott took command early and was never seriously threatened has he cruised to the Stage 1 victory over Logano.

Hamlin was third, Keselowski fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five.

Elliott, who started on the pole, led the way on the first lap but both McDowell and Kyle Busch suffered damage as they navigated the first turn.

Caution was displayed on Lap 3 for debris on the backstretch, which came off McDowell’s No. 34 Ford.

The race returned to green on Lap 5 with Elliott out front followed by Austin Dillon and Hamlin.

With 10 laps remaining in the first stage, Elliott had moved out to a 2.8-second lead over Hamlin with Logano running third.

On Lap 11, Erik Jones was forced to pit under green with a flat tire.

 

NASCAR displayed a caution on Lap 12 for extensive debris dropped on the track from DiBenedetto, who cut a right-rear tire.

Most of the lead-lap cars pit but Bell remained on the track and inherited the lead. Both William Byron and Reddick were penalized for an uncontrolled tire and had to restart from the rear of the field.

On the restart on Lap 14, Bell was followed by Keselowski and Elliott.

Elliott had powered back to the lead on the infield course

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