Christopher Bell takes the checkered flag on rain tires in the NASCAR Cup race at New Hampshire (2024)

Christopher Bell takes the checkered flag on rain tires in the NASCAR Cup race at New Hampshire

By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Christopher Bell raised a broom over his head and clutched a 24-pound lobster in victory lane all because he earned his third Cup win of the season in an outcome that would have been impossible before this NASCAR season.

Heck, it still looked pretty grim for most of Sunday at a rainy track.

Once the skies cleared, NASCAR busted out its latest creation it had saved for a rainy day — wet weather Goodyear tires that allowed the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to continue all the way to a thrilling end.

Bell mastered the Cup Series’ first race that ended with cars running on rain tires and pulled away after a 2-hour, 15-minute weather delay to beat darkness and the field and win Sunday at New Hampshire.

He also swept the weekend at New Hampshire following Saturday’s win in the Xfinity Series.

“Hopefully that was entertaining because it was something different, something new, and nobody knew what to expect and what to do,” Bell said. “The guys that figured it out the quickest were the most successful.”

On Friday, Bell spoiled the reveal that Chase Briscoe is joining him at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2025. Then he ruined Briscoe’s best shot at his first win of the season, holding him off over the final two laps of the overtime finish.

With darkness falling, Bell cruised past Josh Berry and Briscoe and remained the driver to beat at New Hampshire. He has four wins in the Xfinity Series at Loudon and won a Cup race at the track for a second time.

This time, he won with 86 laps raced on the new tires.

“It was dark. It was very, very dark. That was creeping up in a hurry to being too dark to race,” Bell said. “Certainly there were dry parts on the track, but there were still a lot of wet parts on the track, too. I can’t tell you how far away it was, but in my opinion I didn’t think it was ready for the dry tires yet.”

Bell was used to the rain — he won last month's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 with 151 laps left in the race.

New Hampshire actually needed four extra laps. Briscoe was second and Berry third. Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher completed the top five.

“I think we could have probably started with the track a little bit wetter,” Briscoe said. “The beginning was pretty fun. We were all over the place. Five wide at times and slipping and sliding around.”

Even with the start of the race bumped up a half-hour, New Hampshire was a mess about from the moment the green flag was dropped. The race was marred by wrecks that wiped some of NASCAR’s biggest stars out of contention — all while the rest of the field tried to remain in contention and beat the looming rain that hovered over the entire weekend.

Tyler Reddick, who won at Talladega this season, held the lead when the race was red-flagged because of rain with 82 laps left in the scheduled 301-lap race.

Fans fled the grandstands and drivers went back to their motorhomes with seemingly no chance of a return as the gloomy weather worsened. New Hampshire and NASCAR waited out a tornado watch, nearby lightning strikes and a severe thunderstorm warning before it could resume the race after a delay of more than 2 hours — and after crew members swept standing water off pit road — and cars all hit the 1.058-mile track on new tires.

NASCAR let teams use wet-weather tires for the only second time in a points race this season. Teams had a maximum of four sets of wet-weather tires to race on the damp oval track. Teams had to take rain tires during pit stops and their position could not be affected.

They also had no choice of tire.

They were also no match for Bell in his No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Oh, as for that spoiler that Briscoe was headed to JGR, Gibbs said all was forgiven.

“Somebody asked me about that in the winner’s circle, and I said, ‘Christopher Bell can do anything he wants,'" Gibbs said with a laugh.

Busch's woes

Kyle Busch’s dismal day ended with his Chevy getting towed off the track.

Busch hit the wall running the caution laps to end his race and continue what is shaping up as the worst season of his Cup career. Busch had already tagged the wall just past the halfway point and was running 24th late in the race when he was collected in another wreck. He finished 35th in yet another rough outing this season driving for Richard Childress Racing.

A two-time Cup champion with 231 NASCAR wins, Busch has yet to win a race this season driving for RCR. Busch raised some eyebrows last week when he suggested he would be open to returning to two of his former Cup teams, though he said he remained committed to RCR next season.

The 39-year-old Busch is on a 39-race winless drought. It’s the worst losing streak of his career,

Spoiled races

Alex Bowman, winless this season for Hendrick Motorsports, ran into trouble when his No. 48 Chevrolet starting smoking. The hood went up on pit road and the car was soon pushed to the garage for repairs. He finished 36th.

Joey Logano locked up the left front tire on the No. 22 Ford off a restart on lap 194 and slammed into Chase Elliott. Martin Truex Jr., last season’s New Hampshire winner, spun and hit the wall after contact with Brad Keselowski with 91 laps left.

Bubba Wallace was knocked out of the race by Noah Gragson after the rain delay.

Proud to be an Americ an

Daniel Suarez placed an American flag sticker on his Chevrolet days after he became a U.S. citizen. Suarez, a Monterrey, Mexico native, was one of 48 representing 28 countries sworn in this week at a ceremony in North Carolina.

Up next

NASCAR heads to Nashville Superspeedway next weekend. Trackhouse Racing's Ross Chastain held off Truex to win last season’s race.

___

AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

06/24/2024 02:10 -0400

© Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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Christopher Bell takes the checkered flag on rain tires in the NASCAR Cup race at New Hampshire (2024)
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