Battling chaos and carnage late, Christopher Bell wins his first NASCAR Cup Series at the Daytona Road Course.
In year two of his Cup Series career, first with Joe Gibbs Racing and 38th start, Bell wins the a crazy second race of the season. It wasn’t easy and he didn’t have the cleanest car but Bell was able to pass Joey Logano with only two laps to go. With his brakes getting hot and two long laps left, Bell was able to keep the 2018 Cup Series Champion behind him.
Back at Daytona for a second week in a row competing on the road course this time. The normal schedule had to make some adjustments and with the success of the road course last year, NASCAR decided to keep the teams in Florida.
From the drop of the green flag to the end of stage one it was Chase Elliott’s race. The defending Cup Series champion and winner of the last four road courses owned the opening stage leading all of the green flag laps. Elliott was the class of the field and showed his road course dominance once again. There were two cautions in the first stage besides the stage ending caution.
Right out of the gate Kyle Busch went through the grass on the first lap and tore up the right front of his No. 18. Last week’s winner of the Daytona 500, Michael McDowell also had an issue on the first lap by over shooting the very first turn. McDowell started on the front row but locked up his brakes that sent him sailing into the first turn.
Elliott would pull away once again from the field when they started back up. There hasn’t been anyone this dominant on the road courses ever. He has changed that by owning these races. With Elliott on cruise control it was basically a race for second until late in the stage.
Martin Truex, Jr. was on his way to the front of the field and compete with Elliott. The Toyota driver had drove his way from 19th all the way up to third. There was only one driver on the track faster than Elliott at the time and it was Truex. He was looking for second until a caution put a stop to that.
Elliott Dominant Early
The leaders would pit and it would be a short run to the finish of the first stage. Elliott restarted in third and by the time they made it back to the start/finish line he was in the lead. That lead would close out the first stage and give Elliott his first stage win of 2021.
Back under green flag conditions in the second stage, Elliott would pull away again. Two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers battled for second behind him. Truex would end passing Denny Hamlin on lap 26 for second. Only two laps later a caution would fly.
Ross Chastain hit the outside wall coming out of Turn 6 that would end his day. Going back and looking at the replays there may or may not have been some contact between Chastain and Ryan Blaney as they exited the infield portion of the track. The right side was smashed on the McDonald’s Chevy.
After pit road struggles Elliott would have to restart towards the middle of the pack. Hamlin closed out the second stage with the lead and his third stage win of the season already. He won both stages last week in the 500 and now picked up the second stage win.
Weather or Not?
The final stage began with Daniel Suarez leading the field to green but didn’t last long. Kurt Busch took the lead from Suarez right away and went out front on lap 38. Busch’s lead didn’t last long as he went for a wild ride going off the course through the infield kink. His Monster Energy No.1 went sliding through the dirt before coming to a stop just before coming back onto the racing surface. He would go from leading to 27th on the same lap.
Christopher Bell took the lead after Busch’s slide but he didn’t last long as Elliott was charging. By lap 41, Elliott cruised right on by Bell and took his third lead of the day. The defending champ gapped Bell by over a second shortly before green flag pit stops began in the final 20 laps.
With 18 laps to go Elliott who was leading and Bell running second came down pit road for their green flag stops. Quick work down pit lane for both teams got their drivers back out in the lead to run down the finish.
Shortly after the Bell and Elliott stops, rain started to come onto the race track. NASCAR threw their weather caution with only 14 laps left in the race. Teams were given the chance to come to pit road and get the weather tires from Goodyear or stay on their slicks. At the time of the caution it was Elliott, Bell, Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson the top five. The weather caution put the teams into a major decision late in the race.
The weather slowed down but teams still came to pit road. Not to put weather tires on, but to put on a new set of slicks for the final run to the end. Joey Logano stayed out along with many others and that buried the drivers in the top five at the time of the caution. The first car off of pit road was Bell and he restarted 12th.
Chaos Down to the Finish
On the restart, chaos ensued. Tyler Reddick got off course and took out a sponsor sign but more importantly it damaged his car’s nose. Moments after the Reddick incident, the most dominant driver of the day Chase Elliott probably made the best save to that point. Elliott went into the grass but never spun out, only lost some spots.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 21, 2021
The caution would fly shortly after as Reddick’s car caught on fire because of the damage to the nose and engine compartment to the car. The inferno brought out the caution to bunch the field up once again. It also saved Chase Elliott’s day. What looked like Elliott was going to be a non-factor at the end because of the grass incident only changed when the yellow was displayed again.
More chaos on the next restart. Truex got loose and locked up the tires heading into the infield and spun around right into the middle of the field. Through all the smoke, no one hit his car as the scattered around him. Another caution came out means another restart would follow.
Another restart came with only eight laps left. Coming back out of the infield, Larson went to make a pass on Kurt Busch and Joey Logano but the car didn’t stick and Larson’s No. 5 slapped the tire barrier ending his chances for a win. Logano would start pulling away from the pack with only six laps to go.
The second Hendrick car and the most dominant would go around with six laps to go. Elliott spun as he was trying to make a pass on Brad Keselowski. He spun with some help from Denny Hamlin behind him. This would end his chances of winning the race that he had owned all day.
With only a few laps left, Bell was able to chase down Logano. Chasing him down was one thing but being able to make the pass is another. He got by Logano with two laps to go. Both drivers were battling braking issues as they got hot. It was Bell able to get the car around the course first to pick up his first career victory.
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— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 21, 2021