To say that Christopher Bell had a hard Sunday at Watkins Glen might be a bit of an understatement. The trouble started before the race began when Bell’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota failed pre-race inspection twice.
Not only was he forced to give up his seventh place starting spot and start at the rear of the field, but his crew chief Adam Stevens was ejected, fined $25,000 and Bell was hit with a loss of 10 championship points.
Bell fought his way towards the front and by lap 30 was second and by lap 48 was looking for the lead after finishing second in Stage 2. Then on lap 54 while racing with Martin Truex Jr. for the lead disaster struck.
Heading into Turn 1, eventual race winner Kyle Larson was charging from third, and got on the inside of Bell. Bell was sent spinning as Larson continued. With no damage, Bell rejoined the field 10th. He would rally and finish the day 7th. After the race Bell said he had not seen the replay.
“I don’t know if I crowded him (Kyle Larson) at all,” Bell said. “But he shouldn’t have been in there in the first place. He didn’t really have a run coming off of (turn) seven. We were all packed up. I was faster than the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) but never could make a run on him to get by him, and same thing with him. It’s very disappointing.”
Larson was quick to take the blame for the incident.
“I definitely made a mistake getting into him,” Larson said. “But yeah, he would pull me off of (Turn) 7 every time, and that time I maintained, and I was outbraking him in the other laps, so I thought I could outbrake him and get all the way to his inside, but I was only able to get my nose to his numbers. Maybe not even that far, but it was close. At that point I’m already committed and on the verge of wheel hopping and locking the fronts up and I was just hoping he would leave enough room.
“Like I said, I just needed to be a few feet further up, and I think I would have had position on him, but I wasn’t able to get there, and yeah, he had to turn for the corner, and I was as low as I could get. Yeah, we made contact.
“It was definitely my fault. Not intentional, obviously. But I made a mistake.”