NASCAR Wrap: Christopher Bell Wins Historic Wet Race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell Wins Historic NASCAR Wet RaceSean Gardner - Getty Images
  • Race day dawned with weather forecasters predicting severe thunderstorms, strong winds, hail and possibly a tornado.

  • A persistent morning drizzle finally stopped about midday and the race started on time with the 36-car field on slick tires.

  • NASCAR official Elton Sawyer admitted after the event that if wet tires hadn’t been available, the race would have been called.

Motorsports history will define Sunday’s USA Today 301 NASCAR Cup race as the tale of two events—one on wet tires and the other on slicks.

It was an historic moment that winner Christopher Bell will never forget.

“For NASCAR to run in the rain like that or not in the rain, but run in the damp conditions on an oval … I had a blast. It made it different,” said Bell, who finished 1.104 seconds ahead of likely future Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Chase Briscoe


“Hopefully, that was entertaining because it was something different, something new, and nobody knew what to expect and what to do. The guys that figured it out the quickest were the most successful.”

Initially, the lap times were about 4 seconds slower with the wet tires, but as the drivers became more comfortable the lap times picked up by about 2 seconds. By the time the race ended in overtime, the drivers had run 86 laps on wet tires.

“There’s still some things that we’re learning through this process, and, in all honesty, we’d like to be out of the tire business,” NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer said. “We’d like to just turn that over to the teams, but as we continue to take small steps, and we learn, eventually, we’ll get there. We just want to do this in the safest way possible.”

Sunday’s race marked the first time since NASCAR began using wet tires that it had switched to them during an event that started on slicks. All three NASCAR national touring series have started an event on wet tires.

“If you think about it, we’ve only got maybe four data points,” Sawyer said. “We ran the trucks at Martinsville, the All-Star race, with the Cup cars at Richmond, and now here, which is one of the faster short ovals that we run on. We’ll get back to the R&D Center … and look at all the things that transpired today.”

Race day dawned with weather forecasters predicting severe thunderstorms, strong winds, hail and possibly a tornado. A persistent morning drizzle finally stopped about midday and the race started on time with the 36-car field on slick tires. When the green flag waved, the one-mile track’s location was already under severe thunderstorm and tornado watches.

For more than 200 laps, bad weather stayed south of the track, but then with 82 laps remaining in the scheduled 301-lap race a severe thunderstorm struck the track, halting the race for 2 hours 14 minutes and 49 seconds.

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A Joe Gibbs Racing crew member waits to put on the wets on Sunday at New Hampshire.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Sawyer admitted after the event that if wet tires hadn’t been available, the race would have been called. Now, however, the race took on an entirely different complexion. While still under red-flag conditions NASCAR ordered the crews to switch the tires on their cars from slicks to wet. Any pit stops during this portion of the race would be non-competitive due to the wet pit road.

However, it was a different story on the track as the drivers used every lane, including the apron, to find which worked the best with the wet tires. Two more pit stops were needed to change tires as the track began drying, causing the wet tires to wear quicker. The competitors took on their second set of wet tires during the race’s 11th caution period, which consumed laps 266-274. When the 12th yellow flag waved on lap 285, the drivers were allowed to receive their third set of wet tires.

“I was probably the biggest skeptic when they said they wanted to run wet at the ovals,” said winning crew chief Adam Stevens. “I thought they were crazy, and they proved me wrong.

“They did a really good job of coming up with a plan methodically of how wet was too wet. We tried all those gizmos with the wipers and the blinking lights and the mud flaps that didn’t do anything.

"They figured out once they got the water off the race track that you could run in it. That was probably the best way to dry the track, too. Those are all boxes I never thought we would have checked from the way that whole project started out, but kudos to them for being visionaries in that regard.”

Gibbs Loses Motorcoach to Fire

An apparent electrical fire destroyed team owner Joe Gibbs’ motorcoach about midnight Thursday while it was parked in the New Hampshire Motor Speedway infield.

No one was on the bus at the time of the fire.

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Alex Bowman suffered a rare DNF because of engine issues.Jonathan Bachman - Getty Images

Bowman Exits With Engine Woes

Rarely does a Hendrick Motorsports engine fail, but Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that’s what sent Alex Bowman to the garage after 142 laps.

It was the first time in 236 starts that the No. 48 Chevrolet had been sidelined with an engine problem.

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Martin Truex Jr. will retiring as a full-time driver in Cup after the 2024 campaign.Sean Gardner - Getty Images

Truex Already Looking at Part-time Schedule

One week after Martin Truex Jr. announced his retirement from full-time NASCAR Cup racing, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is already looking at which races he might include in a part-time schedule.

Truex, who finished ninth to winner Christopher Bell, said he probably would race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the future.

“I haven’t really looked into all that yet and started the scheduling process,” Truex said. “Eventually, we’ll figure it out.”

Truex said he and Denny Hamlin had just started talking about him driving selected races for 23XI Racing after Hamlin told him at Iowa Speedway that he would field a car for him in next year’s Daytona 500.

“We’ve chatted a few times this week,” Truex said. “So, a few things to figure out but it sounds like we’ll be able to do some races if we want, which would be awesome, so excited about that. It’s really cool that Denny did that and reached out this week.”



New Hampshire Motor Speedway

1. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 305.

2. (23) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 305.

3. (10) Josh Berry #, Ford, 305.

4. (19) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 305.

5. (15) Chris Buescher, Ford, 305.

6. (12) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 305.

7. (13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 305.

8. (28) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 305.

9. (7) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 305.

10. (8) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 305.

11. (31) Ryan Preece, Ford, 305.

12. (16) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 305.

13. (32) Erik Jones, Toyota, 305.

14. (27) Harrison Burton, Ford, 305.

15. (25) Michael McDowell, Ford, 305.

16. (18) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 305.

17. (20) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 305.

18. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 305.

19. (29) Austin Cindric, Ford, 305.

20. (36) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 305.

21. (11) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 305.

22. (35) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 305.

23. (26) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 305.

24. (14) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 305.

25. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 305.

26. (3) William Byron, Chevrolet, 305.

27. (21) Noah Gragson, Ford, 305.

28. (9) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 305.

29. (24) Justin Haley, Ford, 305.

30. (34) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 304.

31. (33) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 303.

32. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 302.

33. (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 268.

34. (17) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 265.

35. (30) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 222.

36. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Engine, 142.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 84.832 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 48 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.104 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 14 for 85 laps.

Lead Changes: 6 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Elliott 1-41;C. Bell 42-125;T. Gilliland 126-144;D. Hamlin 145-187;C. Bell 188;T. Reddick 189-241;C. Bell 242-305.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Christopher Bell 3 times for 149 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 53 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 43 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 41 laps; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 19 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,22,9,12,4,19,11,1,45,48

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,19,22,20,12,38,5,4,9,1