Sunday's motors: Bell crashes NASCAR playoff field with win at New Hampshire

Associated Press

Loudon, N.H. — Christopher Bell crashed the NASCAR playoffs, winning Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to become the 14th Cup Series winner this season.

“That one was much needed right there,” the 27-year-old Bell said.

Bell mastered the track where he won Xfinity Series races in 2018, 2019 and 2021, holding off Chase Elliott, last week’s winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Bell is the 14th driver to earn a spot in the 16-driver playoff field. With six races left in the regular season, it leaves open the possibility that more than 16 drivers could win a race and the final playoff spot or spots would be decided on points.

That’s a worry for another day for Bell.

Bell chased down Elliott late and cruised in the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. His only other Cup win came in the second race of the 2021 season in the Daytona road course race.

Christopher Bell holds up a giant lobster while celebrating with his wife, Morgan, right, after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Loudon, N.H.

Elliott finished second for Hendrick Motorsportsm and Bubba Wallace was third for 23XI Racing. Martin Truex Jr. dominated early and finished fourth. and Kevin Harvick completed the top five.

Bell led JGR to its fourth win this season and 12th at New Hampshire.

Bell was one of those drivers who would have had to worry about his playoff chances during the rest of the summer stretch. He entered the race in 16th place in the points standings — 19 above the cutline.

His biggest concern Sunday was trying to handle the 21-pound lobster awarded to the winner.

“Earlier in the year, I felt like we were right on the verge of winning,” Bell said. “In the last couple of weeks, I thought we were pretty far away. Now, here we are today."

IndyCar Racing

Toronto — Scott Dixon had been waiting more than a year to join Mario Andretti in second place on IndyCar's career wins list.

The only one ahead of him now is A.J. Foyt.

The six-time series champion finally snapped a 22-race winless streak Sunday when he held off pole sitter Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist on a late restart to win in the series' return to Canada following a three-year hiatus.

Dixon's 52nd career win came more than 21 years after his first triumph in Pennsylvania — the only one of his career that did not come with Chip Ganassi Racing — and puts him some rarified air. The next victory moves Dixon past Andretti and continues the climb toward Foyt, who holds a record that may never be broken with 67 career wins.

“It's amazing. Honestly, to be close to Mario — every time I'm asked these questions, I'm so thankful we still have A.J. and him in the pits,” Dixon said. “It's just fantastic. It's huge, man. I feel so lucky to be part of this group.”

Herta, who tested for McLaren in Formula 1 earlier in the week, finished second for Andretti Autosport. Rosenqvist was third, Graham Rahal fourth and Marcus Ericsson finished fifth to further pad his points lead.

Dixon qualified second and spent the day running up front, despite creative fuel and tire strategies as teams jockeyed for track position early in the race. And the New Zealander, who turns 42 on Friday, was still out front when Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Kirkwood tangled to bring out the final caution and force a restart with 18 laps to go.

Dixon quickly opened a 2-second gap on Herta and never relinquished it, cruising to his fourth career win at Toronto. His first win anywhere since May 2021 at Texas also extended his record streak of at least one every year since 2004.

Scott Dixon, of New Zealand, celebrates with champagne in the Winners Circle after winning  an IndyCar auto race in Toronto, Sunday, July 17, 2022.

It also shoved Dixon into the thick of the points race; a seventh championship would match Foyt for the most in history.

The win was a breath of fresh air for the Ganassi garage, too, which was thrown into turmoil this week over the contract status of reigning series champ Alex Palou. Ganassi issued a news release Tuesday that said it exercised its option on Palou for next season, only for Palou to refute it and rival team McLaren to announced he'd be driving for it.

Palou recovered from a wreck in practice to finish sixth on Sunday.