Christopher Bell wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville


Christopher Bell dominated the second half and won Sunday’s 500-lap NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway to claim a spot in the Championship Four Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

Bell, who advanced to the final four for the first time, faced a must-win situation Sunday and came through.

Bell’s victory was almost overshadowed by a last-gasp, last-lap dash by Ross Chastain, who bulled his way through the top 10 riding the outside wall to edge Denny Hamlin for the last playoff spot.

Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Bell and Chastain will race for the title in Phoenix. The highest finisher of the four will win the Cup championship. Logano qualified for the Phoenix four by winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The other three finalists qualified Sunday.

POINTS, RESULTS:  Where everyone finished and the postrace standings

Chastain, who has had a breakout season for Trackhouse Racing, tried a crazy, rarely-seen strategy on the last lap. He pushed his car beyond its limits, jamming it against the outside wall and zooming past five cars while scraping the wall. He edged Hamlin at the finish line to surprise most in the crowd and many of his competitors. His last lap was run in 18.845 seconds, faster than the track qualifying record.

The stunning run by Chastain, which he said he had tried on a NASCAR video game, sent his pit into a frenzy of disbelief and celebration.

Bell finished in front of Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Chastain. After the race, Keselowski was disqualified because his car failed to meet minimum weight requirements. He was dropped to last place.

Hamlin, who led 203 laps but faltered near the finish, ended the afternoon four points below the cutline. William Byron (minus-21), Ryan Blaney (minus-26) and Chase Briscoe (minus-61) also failed to qualify for the Phoenix championship hunt.

Bell took control of the race in the second half and was leading Blaney by a few car lengths with 34 laps to go when Landon Cassill crashed to bring out the caution flag. The leaders pitted for tires, but Briscoe, who needed a win to make the final four, stayed on track, hoping to keep track position with older tires.

Briscoe, who finished ninth, eventually lost the lead to the drivers with fresher tires. Bell passed him for first place with five laps to go.

Bell, who led 150 laps, said his team gave him the day’s best car.

“When our back is against the wall, looks like it’s over, they show up and give me the fastest car out here,” he said. “I don’t know, man. Words can’t describe this feeling.”

Words also fell short for those trying to describe Chastain’s dramatic come-from-behind burst. Forcing the car into the outside wall and riding it to the finish he needed was the sort of script no movie producer would accept.

MORE: Long: Chastain’s move divides competitors

Surprisingly for the tight confines of Martinsville, much of the race was run without cautions (other than those at stage ends). This resulted in most of the field being at least a lap behind the leaders by the end of Stage 2. The first “non-stage” caution occurred on lap 274 when Chastain pushed Brad Keselowski into the outside wall.

The chances of Briscoe reaching the final four declined considerably when he was sent to the rear of the field for removing equipment. During a pit stop at the end of Stage 1, his gas can wound up in another pit stall.

Kyle Larson led 68 laps and Elliott 52 in the first stage, but Hamlin charged to the front with 10 laps left and won the stage. Hamlin also won the second stage. Hamlin led 140 of the race’s first 260 laps.

Stage 1 winner: Denny Hamlin

Stage 2 winner: Denny Hamlin

Who had a good race: Christopher Bell had the power when he needed it and scored in a must-win situation. The victory was the 200th for Joe Gibbs Racing. … Ross Chastain made an outrageous last-lap run that will be talked about for years to come.

Who had a bad race: Kyle Busch was lapped early and often. He finished 30th, six laps down. … Martin Truex Jr., usually a contender at Martinsville, was never in the mix at the front and finished 21st, two laps down. … Tyler Reddick parked his car before the halfway point, saying he didn’t feel well. He was examined and released from the infield care center. He finished last.

Next: The NASCAR Cup Series champion will be decided in the season finale Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway. The race will be broadcast by NBC.

COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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