Christopher Bell scores another walk-off win to make NASCAR’s Final 4

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 22: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem/Watts Toyota, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 4EVER 400 Presented by Mobil 1 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 22, 2023 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Another year another walk-off win for Christopher Bell. Last season Bell needed to win to make it into the Championship 4 and got it at Martinsville. This season he did it again, but this time at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday.

Bell took the lead from William Byron with 14 laps to go and held off a hard charging, and desperate Ryan Blaney for his second win of the season.

Blaney led the second most laps of the day, 53, and made one final charge late in the going, but had to settle for second. Tyler Reddick also made a late race charge and finished third. William Byron was fourth and AJ Allmendinger was the highest non-playoff driver finishing fifth.

Bell came into Homestead below the cutoff to make the final 4. With his win he will join Kyle Larson in the final 4 at Phoenix in two weeks. Bell seemed to struggle finishing ninth in Stage 1, and outside the top 10, 22nd, in Stage 2 almost going a lap down at one point. His Joe Gibbs Racing team kept making adjustments allowing Bell to make a late race run that ended with the win.

“It’s no secret this track hasn’t been my favorite,” Bell said. “The first stage, I thought we were onto something. Started 14th and got all the way up to ninth, I thought if we can improve just this much, we’d have a great day. And then, it went the opposite as soon as we got to stage two. I have no idea what adjustments Adam made. We threw the kitchen sink at it, as we went from being one of the worst cars on the track to being one of the best at the end. Adam and the engineers back at the shop have the magic.

“What they can do on the pitstops, it’s pretty incredible the turnaround we had today.”

While the Gibbs team celebrated sending Bell to the final 4 for the second year, they experienced heartbreak on the same lap. On lap 237, Denny Hamlin was battling Blaney when something broke on his Toyota entering Turn 1 sending him hard into the wall. During that caution, Martin Truex Jr. deeper in the field, had an engine blow up on the same lap. Both cars ended up in the garage and both drivers head to Martinsville below the cutoff and will most likely need to race for the win to make the final 4.

As for Larson he looked to be the car to beat, again, for much of Sunday. The defending Homestead winner took the lead on lap 54 and led a race high 96 laps winning Stage 1 and finishing second in Stage 2 to Blaney. During green flag stops on lap 212 while following Blaney onto pit road locked up and slid into the and barrels, destroying his hopes for the win.

There was some consolation for Blaney as his Stage win and runner-up finish moved him from outside the Playoff cutoff to above the line heading to Martinsville.

“We were trying,” Blaney said. “We just needed laps. The long run car was really good. I just couldn’t fire off for 10 laps or so. I think the track cooling off helped those guys.

“I am proud of the effort. It was a really good day, we just got beat a little bit there at the end.”

Bubba Wallace was sixth, Ty Gibbs the fourth JGR car was seventh, Joey Logano in a backup car after a practice crash Saturday was eighth. Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10.

Unlike last season Bell and his team will be able to go to Martinsville, the final race that will determine the final 4, and know they will race for the 2023 NASCAR Cup series championship.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Bell said. “I don’t know if last week any bearing on it, but we’ve had two good races in a row now. Have some momentum going. It’s all about Phoenix and now we have some more time to prepare for it.”


Race Results

Greg Engle