Christopher Bell suffered a first in his NASCAR Cup Series career Sunday when he blew a brake rotor on his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and was eliminated from championship contention.
Bell crashed in Turn 3 on lap 108 while running sixth. It was the culmination of having dealt with brake fade through the first stage, while the failure and subsequent crash happened nearly 50 laps later.
“Well that was my first time I’ve ever exploded a rotor in my career,” Bell said. “So, yeah, I was surprised, but early on in the race I had a little bit of brake fade, and the second run it just kept getting worse and worse. I don’t know. Just obviously a disappointing way to end.
“I’m super, super proud of this No. 20 team and all of our partners at DEWALT and Rheem. To be in the final four is something we’re really proud of.”
Bell admitted he was still a bit in shock after leaving the infield care center, and the moment hadn’t set in just yet. Part of what led to his surprise and disappointment at the failure that took him out of contention in the most inopportune time of the year is that Bell said there have been no issues with his brakes all season.
“It’s quite surprising to have a brake issue at a track here where they are important, but not as important as some of the others,” he said. “I don’t know. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Gibbs driver felt he, along with rivals William Byron, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney, had already shown strengths through the first portion of the race to set up an even fight to the finish.
“I’m not upset,” Bell said. “Everyone is trying their hardest and obviously, it’s just part of it. Disappointed, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The first driver out of the race, Bell will finish last, in 36th position. He will finish fourth in the championship standings.
“I’m very proud of the effort put forth by our team to get to the Championship 4, but I do feel like we left a lot on the table at various races throughout the year,” Bell said. “I’m excited about the future. We haven’t reached our potential yet.”