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Christopher Bell Earns Commanding Victory at Phoenix Raceway

Redeeming himself from last November's near-miss for the championship, Christopher Bell put the No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry XSE in Victory Lane for the first time in 2024 in Sunday's Shriners Children's 500 at Phoenix Raceway.


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In the eyes of Christopher Bell, Phoenix Raceway has redeemed itself.

Just four months after an early brake rotor failure ended his shot at claiming his first NASCAR Cup Series championship, the Norman, Oklahoma-native has eased some of that pain, scoring his first victory of the new season just four months later, at the same racetrack.

Despite clearly having one of the quickest cars all afternoon, the victory came as a result of an amazing rally by Bell, having to overcome adversity on several occasions in the race’s final stage — including a four-tire pit stop and a complete flip in strategy for many of the lead-lap vehicles.

With 92 laps remaining in Sunday’s 312-lap contest, Bell restarted a dismal 20th-place, behind many drivers on alternate strategies — including drivers who stayed out, took fuel only, two tires, and even some that took four.

Somehow, despite the slicing and dicing throughout the NASCAR Cup Series field on that final stage restart, there were no further interruptions, leaving things to cycle out in a way that favored drivers like Bell and his teammate Ty Gibbs.

Nobody could slice through traffic as quickly as Bell could, though, recovering a position inside the top-10 within just a couple of laps, before methodically picking his way through the drivers at the front of the pack.

Bell would inherit the lead of the race for the final time with 41 laps to go when teammate Martin Truex, Jr. came to pit road for a four-tire pit stop, and a splash of gas, both of which were necessary for the No. 19 to make it to the end of the event.

After Lap 312, Bell had extended his lead to a margin well over five seconds, posting an official Margin of Victory (MOV) of 5.465 seconds over runner-up finisher Chris Buescher.

Despite running outside the top-10 for much of the afternoon, Buescher was able to use an alternate strategy to claim a second-place run, his first top-five result of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series campaign.

For the sixth time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Ty Gibbs placed his No. 54 Toyota Camry inside the top five, finishing a career-high third place. Brad Keselowski and defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five.

Ross Chastain faded to sixth in the closing laps of Sunday’s 500-kilometer event, with Martin Truex, Jr. rallying to come home in seventh place after making a green-flag pit stop inside the race’s final 50 circuits. Michael McDowell, Chase Briscoe, and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top-10.

Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin both earned top-12 results but left Phoenix Raceway disappointed after having race-winning speed. For Hamlin, a top-five performance came unraveled when he made contact with Reddick, spinning his No. 11 Mavis Brakes Plus Toyota Camry XSE around in the middle of the second corner, but luckily sustained no damage.

Reddick’s afternoon began to fizzle out from that point, as well, when the strategy for much of the NASCAR Cup Series field flipped upside down, leaving Reddick in the mid-pack area on the restart, giving his 23XI Racing Camry dirty air that he hadn’t experienced much of throughout the day.

The event featured six caution flags for a total of 40 laps, the last of which flew with less than 100 laps remaining in the event — and ultimately triggered an alternate strategy option for many in the field, shaking up the running order.

Leaving Phoenix, Ryan Blaney leads the regular-season points for the NASCAR Cup Series by 10 markers over both Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr. William Byron, Tyler Reddick, and Ty Gibbs complete the top-six in standings.

The next event for the NASCAR Cup Series will take place at Bristol Motor Speedway, with the Spring race returning to the concrete for the first time in several years.

-- Photo Credit: David Rosenblum, LAT Images, Courtesy of Toyota Racing

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