Thursday, Mar 30

NCS: Christopher Bell punches ticket to Championship Four as Ross Chastain uses the wall to knock Hamlin out of the Round of Eight

NCS: Christopher Bell punches ticket to Championship Four as Ross Chastain uses the wall to knock Hamlin out of the Round of Eight Speedway Digest Photo

It started off slow with Larson well in control of the race with Elliott hot on his trail while they continued to work lapped traffic barely a dozen laps into the race. This would last when finally, the first pass of the day for the lead would happen when Elliott would overtake Larson.

But it was Denny Hamlin in contention with Byron to get above the cut line for a chance at a championship in Phoenix next week that would work himself through the top-10 until he would get to the bumper of Elliott overtaking the lead with just under ten laps to go in the first stage.

Hamlin would end up taking the first stage win of the day over Elliott, Custer, Larson and Briscoe.

Stage one would go wire to wire green, but it was problems for several playoff drivers including William Byron that would go a lap down just prior to the caution yet getting the free pass.

Kyle Busch a non-playoff driver in his last of two races with Joe Gibbs Racing would be well off the pace ending the first stage four laps down while as much as two plus seconds off the pace. Even BJ McLeod would make his way around the No. 18 to put Busch in the last position on track.

As stage two began to wear on with Hamlin in the lead it was Tyler Reddick that would end up taking his car to the garage as the first car out for the day. Communications from the team to the driver indicated that Reddick was experiencing some type of health issues while in the car. As Reddick would exit the car Richard Childress would come to check on him before being escorted to the infield care center. The team would later tweet Reddick had passed the tests while in the care center but would be checked further this week prior to Phoenix.

Stage two would once again go wire to wire green with no change up front between the leaders allowing Hamlin to capture the second stage win of the day over Elliott, Larson, Custer and Bell.

The final stage of the day would just get underway when Chastain would make contact with Keselwoski going into turn three turning the No. 6 car sending him spinning and backed into the wall that would bring out the first official caution for an incident.

Stage three would once again be slowed when the No. 3 car would blow a rotor going down the back causing Austin Dillon to make heavy contact straight on into the wall. Dillion would attempt to try and get it started and back in gear to no avail ending his day.

With laps winding down Cassill would make contact with the wall to bring out what would be the final caution of the day. Drivers would spilt going to pit road leaving Chase Briscoe out of the track trying to make a run to get into the championship in Phoenix. When the green flag would fly Briscoe would scoot away with the lead as Larson and Keselowski would go at it behind him for the second spot.

It was then up to Hamlin and Chastain left to fight it out for the final spot with the two leaning on one another just as Keselowski would start tracking down Briscoe for the lead. With Bell in tow behind the two, first picking off Keselowski for the second spot then finally with under five to go Bell would take control of the race over Briscoe.

As the checkered flag would be in the hands of the flagman and Bell clearing for the lead Ross Chastain would take his No. 1 Chevrolet up next to the wall off turn three hammer down in some Days of Thunder style move with the pedal to the floorboard passing five cars all will riding the wall through the final turns even moving Hamlin out of the way in the process finishing in the fifth spot and good enough to knock Hamlin out and put himself into the final four going to Phoenix.

“Oh, played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the game cube with Chad growing up. You can get away with it. I never knew if it would actually work.” Said Chastain

“I mean, I did that when I was eight years old. I grabbed fifth gear, asked off of two on the last lap if we needed it, and we did. I couldn't tell who was leading. I made the choice, grabbed fifth gear down the back. Full committed. Basically let go of the wheel, hoping I didn't catch the turn four access gate or something crazy. But I was willing to do it.” Continued Chastain

As chaos would clear Christopher Bell would take home the win in the NASCAR Cup Series penultimate race over Larson, Blaney, Keselowski and Chastain.

“Mom and dad, we did it, wow. I can't believe it, man. To come here in Martinsville, this place has always been so tough on me. Just pre-race looking up, seeing all the fans, this place is packed.” Said Bell

“I don't even know what to say. Just thank you so much to DeWalt, Rheem, Toyota, everyone on this Joe Gibbs Racing 20 team. They believed in me since day one.” Continued Bell

However, Keselowski car would be disqualified during post-race inspection for failing to meet minimum ride heights moving Chastain to the fourth spot and Keselowski to the 36th spot.

Logano and Bell would lock themselves into the Championship Race based on their wins while being joined by Chastain and Elliott who would lock themselves in on points.

Hamlin, Byron, Briscoe and Blaney would all fail to make the championship in 2022.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves onto Phoenix Raceway for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race next Sunday, November 6th at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC.


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