The NASCAR Cup Series stays at Daytona International Speedway to run on its road course. Its 15-turn course takes the field through a winding infield before returning onto the superspeedway where drivers race down the backstretch to a tricky chicane. Cars and driver’s ability to control the brakes are so crucial in this course with all the tight hairpin turns. Brake failure often ruins a team’s day in road course racing.
The First Stage
Chase Elliott brought the field to the green flag. He is the defending champion from last year, and he dove down into the first turn sealing off his lead. Elliott was able to hold his lead up to lap 12. A debris caution came out, and many teams took the opportunity to come down pit road for service. Christopher Bell cycled into the field for the restart, however, he was quickly passed by Chase Elliott. Elliott was able to push on and win the first stage.
Elliott Continues to Lead into the Second Stage.
Eight laps into the second stage, Ross Chastain slams into the wall after exiting the sixth turn. This brought out the caution flag, ending Chastain’s day.
AJ Allmendinger moved into the lead under caution. He could not hold onto the lead after being pressured by Denny Hamlin. Hamlin moved into the lead with four laps left on the stage. With no pressure from the rest of the field, Denny Hamlin sails ahead to win the second stage.
Kurt Bush Moves into the Lead to Start the Third Stage
Busch was passed two laps later by Chase Elliott. Elliott continued to increase his lead as the race wound down.
However, NASCAR threw out a caution with 13 laps remaining due to rain. Many teams came down pit road under caution and Joey Logano cycled into the lead. Joey Logano and Christopher Bell battled for the lead on the restart. Logano held off Bell and moved into the solo lead.
Christopher Bell’s Late Push to Win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253
Bell returned to gain back on Logano and was able to make the pass in the chicane coming back to the white flag. Logano wore his brakes out and had nothing left to contend with the sophomore driver. Christopher Bell’s late move on Logano in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 gives him his first-ever Cup Series victory.
Brake fade proved to be the difference on Sunday afternoon. Christopher Bell was able to outmaneuver Joey Logano in the closing laps. It was easy to spot Logano falling off the pace which allowed Bell to return to contention. Joey Logano just ran out of brakes and was not able to hold off Christopher Bell who was more aggressive in the tight corners of this road course.
This win may solidify the next couple of years for Christopher Bell with Joe Gibbs Racing. Coming at a tough course and outdueling a champion is as impressive as it gets for a driver in his second year. The ability to drive on a road course is as important as ever. The NASCAR Cup Series Schedule has five more road courses left on the year.
Bell acknowledges the importance in his post-race interview saying, “It’s just seat time and experience and doing it. They’re a lot of fun. They’re fun to run. Last year, I guess the two years in Xfinity, we got a bunch of road courses run so that probably helped me out a lot. This year we got nine of them I think so better get good at it.”
The NASCAR Cup Series added Road America and Circuit of the Americas. These two venues have not been raced at by the Cup Series, so they will favor those who are more experienced at road courses. With the direction NASCAR is heading, more road courses could be on the schedule in years to come.