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October 3, 2022

Christopher Bell laments lost ground in playoff pursuit at Talladega

Christopher Bell's No. 20 Toyota slides into the entrance of pit road at Talladega Superspeedway as teammate Kyle Busch avoids contact in the No. 18 Camry
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Christopher Bell started from the pole position in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, a perch that offered promise for a turnaround from a rough go the previous weekend. Leading the field to the green flag, however, marked the day’s high point at Talladega Superspeedway, leaving him to lament lost chances at making postseason gains.

Bell rallied from a Stage 2 spin to place 17th in Sunday’s YellaWood 500, but came up empty in his bid for stage points to better his hopes of advancing in the Cup Series Playoffs. He enters Sunday’s Round of 12 finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM) needing to overcome a 45-point deficit to avoid elimination.

RELATED: Official results | Playoff standings

“Just a terrible, terrible race overall for me,” Bell said on pit road post-race. “You know, we needed to come in here and maximize points, and unfortunately we didn’t get to do that.”

Bell overcooked the entry to pit road before a green-flag stop on the 100th of 188 laps in Sunday’s event. His No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota skidded without making contact, but the team had to switch plans for a fuel-only stop to full four-tire service — changing one flat tire and the flat-spotted remaining ones. Race officials tacked on a speeding penalty for his too-fast entrance, and Bell lost a lap in the process.

“I mean, as soon as I got to the brakes, it just … the rears (tires) locked up, so I didn’t have a chance,” said Bell, who returned to the lead lap as the beneficiary of the Stage 2 intermission. “… I was along for the ride from that point on.”

The 27-year-old driver had opened the playoffs with a roar, sweeping to three consecutive top-five finishes in the races that made up the opening Round of 16. The Round of 12 has been a different story, as his Talladega effort followed a crash-related 34th-place result at Texas Motor Speedway.

Bell admitted his Roval quest is a tall task, but the first of his two Cup Series victories came on an oval-road course hybrid in 2021 at Daytona International Speedway.

“I mean, I don’t think we’re going to be able to get in on points so going to have to go there and win the race,” Bell said, “and fortunately for me, I have won a road-course race.”