Christopher Bell wins at New Hampshire to join NASCAR Cup playoff field

Christopher Bell holds up a giant lobster while celebrating with his wife, Morgan.
Christopher Bell holds up a 21-pound lobster while celebrating with his wife, Morgan, after winning Sunday's NASCAR Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

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.

Elliott finished second for Hendrick Motorsports 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.“

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.