Bell reigns for JGR at Phoenix after clawing back from slow stop

Christopher Bell didn’t dominate Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway but flexed the muscle of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry when it mattered to take the victory.

Bell crossed the finish line first by over 5s on Chris Buescher. The No. 20 Toyota took the lead for the final time with 41 laps to go when teammate Martin Truex Jr. made his final pit stop under green flag conditions. Once back out front, Bell went unchallenged for his first victory of the season.

“This one feels really good,” Bell said. “Just a credit to Adam [Stevens, crew chief]. Adam, my engineers, my crew chief, all the mechanics on this thing… You don’t get cars like that very often, as you know. Just super, super proud. Proud to be on this No. 20 car.


“This Rheem Camry was amazing today. I feel like we have capability of running races like this a lot. Hopefully this is the first of many this year.”

Bell was able to cycle to the front of the field when the field split pit strategy under the lap 215 caution flag. Truex stayed out on track with nine other drivers and inherited the race lead, but Bell and most of the leaders opted for tires and had a car fast enough to drive back through the field.

The victory capped off an up-and-down day for the No. 20. He started 13th and finished the first stage in the same position. Bell took the lead for the first time on lap 181 and won the second stage, however he lost his track position when the team had a slow stop under the caution break. Michael Hicks, the right rear tire changer, took extra time to make sure the lug nut was tight before going around to change the left side tire.

Bell was 20th when the race restarted for the final time before making another march through the field and led 50 laps en route to winning.

Sunday was the first victory for Toyota in the Cup Series this season.

Buescher and Ty Gibbs rounded out the top three finishers. Brad Keselowski finished fourth, and Ryan Blaney finished fifth.

Ross Chastain finished sixth, Martin Truex Jr., seventh, Michael McDowell, eighth, Chase Briscoe, ninth and Tyler Reddick, who won the first stage, 10th.


Denny Hamlin finished 11th after starting from the pole and leading 68 laps, tied for a race-high with Reddick. However, Hamlin brought out the final caution when he spun from the race lead on lap 215 while battling underneath Reddick in Turns 1 and 2.

There were 21 drivers on the lead lap at the end of Sunday’s race. Kyle Busch was the first driver one lap down after struggling with his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Busch qualified 31st and spun on his own on lap 196 off Turn 2.

Four drivers failed to finish the Shriners Children 500. Austin Cindric was the first driver to exit the race after being caught in a multi-car crash on lap 6 when Derek Kraus spun, and Cindric was run into from behind by Austin Dillon.

Corey LaJoie, Joey Logano, and Kraus exited the race after crashing on lap 205. Logano was hit from behind by John Hunter Nemechek and spun across the racetrack in Turns 1 and 2 and collected LaJoie and Kraus.

Toyota went three-for-three at Phoenix Raceway with victories in the ARCA Menards Series, Xfinity Series and Cup Series. Toyota drivers combined to lead 298 of 312 laps in the Cup race.


Story originally appeared on Racer