‘We live on’: Bell scores walk-off win in wild ROVAL finish

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 09: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 09, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Coming into the Charlotte ROVAL, Christopher Bell needed nothing short of a win to advance to the next round of NASCAR’s Cup Series Playoffs. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had fallen into the 11th spot in the field of 12 that was cut down to 8 Sunday.

For much of the race it looked like he would indeed be out. Then all hell broke loose and when it was over Christopher Bell was celebrating a win telling his team om the radio “We live on.”

It was perhaps a sign both literally and figuratively that changed the fortunes for the Playoff field and helped set Bell up for his win. After having only 2 cautions, both for Stage endings, it seemed as though the final Playoff drivers to advance were settled with Bell not among them.

But someone hit the wall coming out of Turn 6 knocking a sign loose and sending onto the racing surface on lap 105 bringing out the race’s third caution and setting the field up for a wild and chaotic finish. It also erased a 4 second lead for Chase Elliott who had led the most laps, 30, to that point and seemed to be cruising to an easy victory.

Then came the sign.

At that point, Chase Briscoe was out, along with Daniel Suarez whose Chevy suffered power steering issues starting on lap 66. He struggled for several laps falling a lap down and was one point below the cutline.

Meanwhile defending series champion Kyle Larson had his own issues hitting the wall and pitting on lap 103 with a broken rear toe link on his Chevy. He fell down the running order but was still above the cutline.

During the caution for the sign, however, Bell was among the few who pitted for fresh tires along with Playoff drivers Suarez, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney and William Byron.

On the fresher tires, Bell was able to charge ahead on the restart taking second while Kevin Harvick charged to the lead. Elliott fighting for position with AJ Allmendinger and spun in turn 6 ending his hopes for a win; that was followed by a tangle involving Briscoe and Cindric heading into the backstretch chicane that damaged some curbing and forced NASCAR to throw a red flag.

After a 6-minute stoppage, the field set up for overtime and Bell never looked back scoring the win and advancing. Harvick, Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Justin Haley rounded out the top five.

“Man, you just got to be there at the end of these things,” Bell said. “I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. No secret that road courses have not been our strength year. We were just there at the right time. We obviously weren’t in position to win, we rolled the dice, gambled, it paid off for us.”

Meanwhile on the final lap, Briscoe was able to charge ahead and finish ninth while Cindric could only manage 21st. That eliminated Cindric and moved Briscoe, who started the day below the cutline, above the line and into the Round of 8.

“Yeah, man, what a wild day,” Briscoe said. “I told my guys before we took the initial green in the race, there’s a difference between thinking we could move on and knowing we could move on. This team never gives up. I told them I was never going to give up.”

With Bell’s win, combined with Larson’s 35th place finish 5 laps down, eliminated the defending series champion along with Suarez. Alex Bowman was forced to sit out the race due to concussion issues and was already out of the Playoffs.

Chris Buescher was sixth, Bubba Wallace seventh, Tyler Reddick eighth with Austin Dillon 10th behind Briscoe.

Polesitter Joey Logano led the first 27 laps and won Stage 1 and finished 22nd.  Ross Chastain won Stage 2 but was victim of a brush with the wall and a broken toe link that sent him to the garage and left him 37th nine laps down.

The first race in the Round of 8 comes next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin is the defending winner.

Photos : NASCAR at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL Sun. Oct. 9,2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Annual Bank of America ROVAL 400
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
Concord, North Carolina
Sunday, October 9, 2022

1. (8) Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 112.
2. (22) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 112.
3. (20) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 112.
4. (7) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 112.
5. (13) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 112.
6. (21) Chris Buescher, Ford, 112.
7. (14) Bubba Wallace (P), Toyota, 112.
8. (4) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 112.
9. (17) Chase Briscoe (P), Ford, 112.
10. (15) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 112.
11. (26) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 112.
12. (30) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 112.
13. (24) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 112.
14. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 112.
15. (37) Aric Almirola, Ford, 112.
16. (2) William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 112.
17. (19) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 112.
18. (1) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 112.
19. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 112.
20. (9) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 112.
21. (5) Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 112.
22. (16) Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, 112.
23. (29) Noah Gragson(i) (P), Chevrolet, 112.
24. (12) Cole Custer, Ford, 112.
25. (28) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 112.
26. (6) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 112.
27. (11) Michael McDowell, Ford, 112.
28. (23) Harrison Burton #, Ford, 111.
29. (34) Mike Rockenfeller, Chevrolet, 111.
30. (32) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 111.
31. (38) Josh Williams(i), Ford, 110.
32. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 110.
33. (36) Loris Hezemans(i), Ford, 110.
34. (39) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 109.
35. (18) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 107.
36. (3) Daniel Suarez (P), Chevrolet, 107.
37. (10) Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 103.
38. (27) Joey Hand, Ford, Accident, 79.
39. (33) Daniil Kvyat(i), Toyota, Engine, 17.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 86.661 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 59 Mins, 54 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.790 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 10 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Logano (P) 1-27;T. Reddick 28-30;A. Allmendinger(i) 31-48;R. Chastain (P) 49-51;A. Allmendinger(i) 52-54;T. Reddick 55-72;A. Allmendinger(i) 73-75;E. Jones 76;C. Elliott (P) 77-106;K. Harvick 107-110;C. Bell (P) 111-112.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 30 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 27 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 3 times for 24 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 21 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 4 laps; Ross Chastain (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,24,99,12,2,5,14,11,8,16
Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,21,5,16,8,99,22,14,12,9

Greg Engle