• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Christopher Bell wins at Martinsville, Chastain goes full send as both clinch Championship 4 spots

ByStaff Contributions

Oct 30, 2022
Christopher Bell poses with Grandfather clock

Photo courtesy of Stacy Revere | Getty Images

Only so many times can the phrase “have you ever?” be used until it becomes worn out.

However, there may not be any other moment in NASCAR history that warrants it more than what Ross Chastain did on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway.

Just have a look for yourself.

In a matter of seconds, Chastain went from two points out of the Championship 4 to four points above Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot for a golden ticket at Phoenix Raceway.

“Played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube with Chad [Ross’ brother] growing up and we get away with it,” Chastain said after the race. “I never knew if it would actually work. I grabbed fifth gear and asked off Turn 2 if we needed it and we did so I just made the choice and full committed.

“I hope everybody remembers that just two years ago I was out here seven laps down and now Trackhouse, to have this vision, I cannot believe that we have a chance to go fight for a championship.”

Needed a win like he did at the Charlotte Roval a round earlier, Christopher Bell once again had luck and good pit strategy on his side as he took the checkered flag for his third win of 2022, outdueling fellow Round of 8 driver Chase Briscoe in the closing laps to cement his title bid.

It will be the first title chances for both Bell and Chastain.

“I don’t even know what to say. I’m so appreciative,” Bell said after the race. “I say all the time but the driver is just a small piece of the puzzle for these races. The reason why we won today is because we had the best car on the track and the entire No. 20 group..they just never give up. Our backs against the wall and it looks like it’s over and they show up and give me the fastest car out here. Words can’t describe this feeling.”

Coming into Sunday, Joey Logano had already been locked into the Championship 4 after winning the first Round of 8 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. and with his 10th-place finish, Chase Elliott advanced to his third-straight championship bid by a few points over Hamlin.

It looked as though Hamlin would have a clear path to his shot at his first Cup championship. He won both stages and ran inside the top five for most of the race.

However, when the No. 11 pit crew needed to execute a perfect stop, it all came tumbling down as they had a 14+ second stop on the final trip to pit road, parachuting Hamlin out of the top five. Hamlin got into tense battles with Chastain and a handful of other drivers to try to point his way in and while he did everything he could do, it still wasn’t enough with Chastain’s buzzer-beating move.

“You got to execute all day and we just didn’t control the race when we had to control it,” Hamlin said. “It was a great move. Brilliant. When you have no other choice, it’s certainly easy to do that but well executed.”

Kyle Larson finished second, followed by Ryan Blaney in third, who was eliminated from championship contention. Chastain and Hamlin rounded out the top five.

Logano, William Byron (eliminated), Bubba Wallace, Briscoe and Elliott made up the rest of the top 10.

The Championship 4 is set and going for the 2022 Cup Series championship will be Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain.

They will battle for the title next Sunday at Phoenix (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series is complete. Christopher Bell is the winner. Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 RFK Racing Ford was disqualified after not meeting minimum weight requirements.