A lightning delay that turned into a heavy rainstorm made a winner of Christopher Bell in Sunday‘s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Not that Bell didn‘t deserve the victory in the rain-shortened race, which NASCAR was forced to call after 249 of 400 laps were complete.

The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota started third, led a race-high 90 laps and won the second stage of the 14th NASCAR Cup Series race of the season.

The decisive juncture in the Memorial Day weekend race came when Bell held off Darlington winner Brad Keselowski during a 10-lap run after a caution for Corey Lajoie‘s spin in Turn 2 on Lap 229.

On the ensuing Lap 236 restart, Bell and Keselowski lined up side-by-side at the front of the field, with Bell prevailing and pulling out to a lead of roughly six car-lengths before NASCAR called the seventh caution for lightning in the area.

After the lightning came heavy rain, and though NASCAR attempted to dry the track when the rain subsided, heavy humidity thwarted efforts to do so in a timely manner.

As a result, Bell collected his second victory of the season, his first on the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval and the eighth of his career.

The victory was a welcome momentum shift for Bell, who had finished outside the top 10 in five of his previous six races.

“Man, it feels so good—to win or lose—just to have a great race to go off of,” Bell said. “A race where we led laps. We were able to pass cars. We lost the lead at times and were able to drive back to the lead.

“We had great pit stops. It was a team effort, and it was amazing to have a good race. Hopefully, this is something we can build on and get back to being more consistent.”

Keselowski, who posted his third runner-up finish of the season, was convinced he had the fastest car.

“We just didn‘t have time for it to play out,” said the driver of the No. 2 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford, who pressured Bell throughout the final 10-lap run before weather intervened.

Stage 1 winner William Byron ran third behind Bell and Keselowski, with Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

Pole winner Ty Gibbs finished sixth after leading 74 laps, including the first 42 of the race. Chase Elliott finished seventh, followed by Ross Chastain, Alex Bowman and Josh Berry.

After finishing 18th in his Indianapolis 500 debut, Kyle Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway just before weather forced the stoppage. Larson intended to take over his No. 5 Chevrolet from Justin Allgaier, who had started the race at Charlotte because the Indy 500 was delayed by rain.

Allgaier was running 13th when the race was called, and Larson never had a chance to drive the car.

Defending race winner and reigning series champion Ryan Blaney slammed the outside wall in the second stage and exited the event after 143 laps.

“We‘ll have to look if I hit something or… I don‘t know,” Blaney said. “I just went into (Turn) 3 getting up to speed and blew a tire and hit the fence. It‘s an unfortunate end to our night. That sucks.

“We‘re not even halfway and just wanting to work on your stuff all night. I thought we were getting it a little better here and there, but won‘t get a shot.”

— NASCAR News Wire —

See race details at: Race Results, Driver Points Standings, Owner Points Standings, Cumulative Report, Penalty Report.

See complete race information on the Charlotte race page.


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