Bell needed a Byron mistake in order to make a run for COTA win

Christopher Bell was fast enough to erase a 9s deficit in the final stint of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of The Americas, but he also needed a little fortune to take the victory.

Bell and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team finished second to William Byron in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. Pitting for the final time under green with 20 laps to go, Bell cycled out in sixth position, 9s behind the lead. He took third with seven laps to go, now 5.6 seconds behind, and took second with three laps to go.

The gap was 2.7s when he took second place. At the white flag, his Camry was 1.7s behind Byron.


“Obviously, when I got close to him, it was going to be tough to pass him,” Bell said. “I needed a couple of mistakes. William has been really, really good on the road courses, and he was flawless when it mattered today.”

Bell felt at least one more lap would have put him even closer to Byron, but there was no guarantee he would overtake the Hendrick Motorsports driver.

“It seems like another lap and I would have got there for sure with our DEWALT Camry,” Bell said. “Passing was going to be a little more difficult and I needed him to make a mistake.”

Byron was the dominant car Sunday, leading the most laps (42) from the pole. Bell, however, led nine laps and won the first stage as the team kept to a two-stop strategy.

While the day ended on a high note, it wasn’t smooth for Bell, who spun two of his competitors. The first was contact with Kyle Larson on lap 21.

“I completely take ownership of [that],” Bell said. “I’m completely sorry about that and had no intention of that.”

Bell’s second incident came in the final stage when he got into former teammate Kyle Busch. After the race, Busch confronted Bell on pit road.

“The Kyle Busch incident was a little bit different [from Larson] because I wasn’t trying to make a move or pass him,” Bell said. “He opened his entry up because he was too wide, and I was obviously under him when he came down. I had no intentions of spinning him out at all.”

Story originally appeared on Racer