NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR takeaways: Christopher Bell weathers the storm at New Hampshire
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR takeaways: Christopher Bell weathers the storm at New Hampshire

Published Jun. 23, 2024 10:21 p.m. ET

LOUDON, N.H. — A downpour that could have ended the NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway served as just an intermission Sunday.

With speeds slow enough on the flat 1.058-mile oval that NASCAR felt it could use grooved tires to race in damp conditions, Cup drivers ran the final 86 laps on its wet weather tires following a 144-minute rain delay for a heavy storm.

Christopher Bell, who was ninth at the time of the rain, maneuvered his way to the front to lead the final 64 laps on the way to his third victory of the season.

"It was literally the tale of two completely different events," Bell said. "Obviously, the rain completely shook up what was going on track.. ... Just how historic it was for NASCAR to run in the rain like that — or not in the rain, but run in the damp conditions on an oval, it ended up being hopefully a good show,"


Tyler Reddick, who would have won the race if it had not resumed because he was leading at the time of the rain delay and well past the halfway point of the scheduled 301 laps, wound up sixth.

"It was certainly an interesting day and a wild experience," Reddick said.

Takeaways from a day where Bell outlasted future JGR teammate Chase Briscoe and Cup rookie Josh Berry on the final couple of restarts for the victory as Briscoe finished second, Berry third, Kyle Larson fourth and Chris Buescher fifth.

All Good And Wet

NASCAR Chairman Jim France had directed his competition officials to get these tires developed so NASCAR could resume racing sooner, and they opted to wait out the rain despite the area being under a tornado watch throughout the day and a severe thunderstorm warning during the delay.

"All of those [severe] weather conditions were way south of the speedway, so we felt like we were in a good place once the rain passed, it looked like we had clear skies behind us, which we did and we were able to get the race resumed," NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Elton Sawyer said. 

FINAL LAPS: Christopher Bell braves the rain to earn the checkered flag at New Hampshire

While it would have taken close to 75-90 minutes to dry the track to resume the race on slick tires, NASCAR needed only 42 minutes from starting to dry the track to firing the engines with the wet-weather tires.  NASCAR possibly could have still resumed the race but would not have gotten the full event in before darkness (the track doesn't have lights).

NASCAR dictated to the teams when they could change tires and only allowed them to change to the wet weather tires since the track was still damp. On a road course, they typically would allow the teams to decide when to change and if they could go to slicks.

"In all honesty, we'd like to be out of the tire business — we'd like to just turn that over to the teams," Sawyer said. "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."

Teams didn't lose positions when doing the tire changes because NASCAR did not dry pit road. Allowing competitive pit stops would have put the pit crews in danger.

"Not only is that a slip-and-fall hazard, but you can have a pit crew guy on the ground on the right side of the car and then the car slipping and sliding trying to beat each other out of their boxes," Bell crew chief Adam Stevens said. "It could get really, really messy in a hurry.

"I think in this situation that was absolutely the right call."

Bell Strongest In Wet

Bell held the lead through five restarts while racing in the damp. It didn't seem to matter who challenged him, he was able to stay ahead.

"My chances got a lot higher once they went to the wet weather tires," Bell said. "We lost all of our track position in the final stage with the strategies, the way that they played out, all the yellow flags.

"Early on in the race I was good, and then Martin [Truex Jr.] got by me, and I wasn't out of it by any means, but then it was going to get a lot harder once we got mired back in traffic there. ... Then whenever the wet weather came in, it really made it anybody's ball game."

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had led 85 laps before the rains, including an 84-lap stretch from Lap 42-125.

Blaney, Busch, Wallace Bad Days

Several drivers left frustrated.

Kyle Busch wrecked a few times, including on the caution laps when the race resumed in the damp. It was unclear what broke on the car (or if he just lost traction) for his third 35th-place finish in his last four races.

Bubba Wallace was later a victim of a spinning Noah Gragson and saw his day end in 34th, dropping him outside the playoff cutline by 13 points behind Joey Logano.

Another driver who got wrecked, Ryan Blaney, was able to get to the finish but wound up 25th after Michael McDowell spun underneath him battling for second.

McDowell went to Blaney to apologize afterward.

"He said he was sorry he wrecked me," Blaney said. "Apologies are nice, but it isn't going to bring back what he did. I knew what he was trying to do. It was a low percentage move. It was wet down there, and he drove it in there. What do you think is going to happen?

"You are going to take both of us out. I know he has to win and all that, and that was his excuse, but you have to be a little more calculated than that. It stinks it was at our expense."

With nine races (now eight) left in the regular season, McDowell is in a must-win situation to make the playoffs.

"I was in a do-or-die situation — I had to go for it," McDowell said. "I know it was a low-percentage move, but I had to try. ... I hate it for Blaney. I know it ruined his day and ruined my day, too, and I apologize to those guys for that.

"I'm at a point in my season where I have to go for it, too. You don't know until you get there, and I was just in there a little too deep." 

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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