Bell Wins to Make it 4-for-4

Jackson Wheeler
14 Min Read

  • Christopher Bell beat runner-up Chris Buescher in the No. 17 Ford and helped Toyota break Chevrolet’s three-victory streak.
  • Bell has won two of the past seven short-track events.
  • The next race, the Food City 500, is another short track, this one set for this weekend at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway.

Christopher Bell became the NASCAR Cup Series’ fourth different winner in as many races this season Sunday in the Shriners Children’s 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

In beating out runner-up Chris Buescher in the No. 17 Ford, Bell helped Toyota break Chevrolet’s three-victory streak that started the 2024 schedule. It was a special feat for Toyota, which had led only 15 laps at Phoenix before Sunday. At this race, it led all but 14.

The Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver of the No. 20 Rheem Camry mastered the mile oval at Avondale, Ariz., in the first test for both NASCAR’s short-track aerodynamic package and Goodyear’s freshest tire compound.

“You don’t get cars like that very often,” Bell said immediately after taking his seventh overall checkered flag and first at Phoenix.

“If you’re not good here,” he said, “you’re never going to be a champion.”

His crew chief, Adam Stevens, said Bell “is really, really good everywhere we go. He’s an exceptional short-track racer.

nascar cup series shriners children's 500

Chris Graythen//Getty Images

Christopher Bell led xx laps on his way to his seventh career NASCAR Cup Series win.

“We have the capability of running races like this a lot. Today was lights-out. So hopefully this is the first of man this year,” Bell, one of 2023’s final four championship contenders the previous time he visited this racetrack, said.

Whether he will be among the four candidates for the crown this November when the series returns here to Phoenix Raceway depends on one key goal for Bell.

“You’ve got to keep your head about you,” he said Sunday.

Stevens said his data “is definitely going to apply when we come back in November. There’s no question. We have the best notebook to build off of. It’s too early to tell if there is some kind of gap to the field. We hit it better than everybody else did today.” He said that Sunday, “we focused on some very specific things with our set-up, with this package. He was able to tell us how he wanted to run this race and the line he wanted to run. And we optimized to it.”

The victory was the 209th for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Buescher, in the No. 17 Fastenal Ford for RFK Racing, said after registering his season-best second-place finish, “In a way, we were close. But I couldn’t see the [No.] 20. That was going to be a tough one to battle for a win.”

He has won two of the past seven short-track events, with the next race, the Food City 500, set for this weekend at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway.

Ty Gibbs gave JGR two of the three podium spots Sunday with a third-place finish in the #54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry.

“I was standing pretty. That’s all I did,” team owner Joe Gibbs said.

tony stewart nhra nascar

NHRA/National Dragster

Tony Stewart left his NHRA Top Fuel debut at Gainesville 10th in the standings.

Tony Stewart ‘Elated’ with NHRA Top Fuel Debut

Chase Briscoe led the four Stewart-Haas drivers Sunday with a ninth-place showing. Noah Gragson was 12th, while Ryan Preece improved from 27th to 23rd and Josh Berry started dead-last in 36th and moved up 10 spots.

But team owner Tony Stewart wasn’t on hand to see his drivers navigate Phoenix Raceway. He was a continent away, at Gainesville, Fla., competing in his Top Fuel debut at the NHRA season-opening Gatornationals. He qualified seventh on the 16-car grid but lost to Justin Ashley in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

Stewart said, “I’m extremely pleased with my first Top Fuel weekend, even with the first-round loss today. I cut an 0.21 [-of-a-second] light against the best leaver in the Top Fuel division, Justin Ashley, and beat him off the line. [A perfect light is .000.] We were the first pair of cars down the track on Sunday morning, so you really don’t know what to expect. I felt the tires start to shake and I pedaled the throttle. I got back into the pedal as quickly as I could. But Justin just nipped me at the line.”

He said, “I don’t have a false sense of security after five runs this weekend. I’m elated with how things went. There is zero shame in my eyes. Seven other guys went home after the first round, too. I’m a rookie in Top Fuel, and I hope I gained the respect of the other competitors in the class.

“Making that first qualifying run on Friday afternoon was the most nerve-wracking for me. I was way calmer with the second run on Friday night. I was fine sitting in the race car during the rain delays. I’ve sat in a race car for three and a half hours at Darlington, so I’m pretty calm just in sitting the car. Once I’m belted in the car, my heart rate goes way down. Going from the alcohol car to the Top Fuel car is similar from going from a Busch to a Cup car: the cars are different, but the procedures are the same,” Stewart said.

nascar xfinity series call 811com every dig every time 200

Chris Graythen//Getty Images

Chandler Smith won the Xfinity race on Saturday.

Xfinity Series Race Winner Chandler Smith benefits from Justin Allgaier’s tire mishap

Chandler Smith capitalized on Justin Allgaier’s late-race misfortune in Saturday night’s crash-marred Every Dig. Every Time 200 Xfinity Series race to claim his first Phoenix victory and second overall.

In a few tire-shredding seconds, Allgaier saw his comfortable lead fizzle to a 29th-place finish with just five laps of the scheduled 200 remaining. After leading 52 laps, he hit the outside Turn 1 wall. Smith, less than four years out of high school in Jasper, Ga., drove like a veteran in the No. 81 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to take the checkered flag in 205 laps.

The red flag came out in the 144th lap for a nine-car was red-flagged after Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, and Riley Herbst engaged in a backstretch battle near the head of the pack and triggered a nine-car crash. Nemechek, Sam Mayer, Parker Retzlaff, and Jeb Burton were among those collected in the accident.

Jesse Love was second and Sheldon Creed third.

nascar cup series shriners children's 500

Meg Oliphant//Getty Images

Denny Hamlin, right, finished 11th, but like what he felt in the new aero package for short tracks.

Cup Pole Sitter Hamlin Insists New Aero Package an Improvement

A small improvement in the short-track package still is an improvement to Denny Hamlin.

After lukewarm-at-best reviews Friday from his colleagues, he said, “I saw some of the driver’s comments, and I understand everyone’s frustration and whatnot. But I certainly believe that data doesn’t lie in a lot of instances. So, it is better.

While it is a very, very small amount, it certainly is better. The tire, I think, is the biggest gain that we’ve had over the weekend, having a tire that is faster on the short run. [It] falls off more in the long run.”

He gave kudos to Goodyear “for bringing up a better tire to the racetrack. It needs to continue to evolve. Keep evolving it, keep pushing the limits of the tire.”

William Sawalich Continues Phoenix Supremacy in ARCA Menards Series

William Sawalich was declared the winner of Friday night’s ARCA Menards General Tire 150 after the race was red-flagged with 38 laps to go because of lightning and impending rain.

When the rainstorm hit, polesitter Sawalich earned his second victory in three Phoenix Raceway appearances. Gio Ruggiero, running just .0781 of a second behind Sawalich, was second.

Marco Andretti started 17th and finished 21st in the 40-car order. Debuting Isabella Robusto was sixth.

Kyle Larson: ‘Cool to Run an Indy Car Around this joint’

Kyle Larson, set to try the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double this May, said he’s trying to keep up in general with what’s happening in the NTT IndyCar Series but always is focused on whatever the task is before him.

So December’s IndyCar test here at Phoenix is a distant memory.

“I almost forget that that even happened, just because I’m not coming here running an IndyCar right now,” Larson said. “It was very cool to run in IndyCar around this joint. It was really fast. You’re just going faster. I’ve raced so many different kinds of cars all the time.”


NASCAR Cup Series

Shriners Children’s 500

Phoenix Raceway

1. (13) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 312.

2. (14) Chris Buescher, Ford, 312.

3. (2) Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 312.

4. (18) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 312.

5. (16) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 312.

6. (12) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 312.

7. (11) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 312.

8. (9) Michael McDowell, Ford, 312.

9. (8) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 312.

10. (6) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 312.

11. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 312.

12. (7) Noah Gragson, Ford, 312.

13. (15) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 312.

14. (17) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 312.

15. (10) Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 312.

16. (22) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 312.

17. (29) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 312.

18. (5) William Byron, Chevrolet, 312.

19. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 312.

20. (25) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 312.

21. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 312.

22. (31) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 311.

23. (27) Ryan Preece, Ford, 311.

24. (33) Justin Haley, Ford, 311.

25. (19) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 311.

26. (36) Josh Berry #, Ford, 310.

27. (24) Harrison Burton, Ford, 310.

28. (21) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 310.

29. (28) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 309.

30. (32) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 309.

31. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 305.

32. (30) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 304.

33. (35) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Accident, 204.

34. (23) Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 203.

35. (26) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, Accident, 203.

36. (34) Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 6.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 103.568 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 0 Mins, 45 Secs. Margin of Victory: 5.465 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 40 laps.

Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 0;T. Gibbs 1-57;T. Reddick 58-64;D. Hamlin 65-119;T. Gilliland 120-133;T. Reddick 134-180;C. Bell 181-189;D. Hamlin 190-202;T. Reddick 203-216;M. Truex Jr. 217-271;C. Bell 272-312.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Denny Hamlin 2 times for 68 laps; Tyler Reddick 3 times for 68 laps; Ty Gibbs 1 time for 57 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 1 time for 55 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 50 laps; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 14 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,54,11,43,9,24,12,34,14,19

Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,45,11,24,19,12,9,10,6,17

Headshot of Susan Wade

Susan Wade has lived in the Seattle area for 40 years, but motorsports is in the Indianapolis native’s DNA. She has emerged as one of the leading drag-racing writers with nearly 30 seasons at the racetrack, focusing on the human-interest angle.  She was the first non-NASCAR recipient of the prestigious Russ Catlin Award and has covered the sport for the Chicago Tribune, Newark Star-Ledger, and Seattle Times. She has contributed to Autoweek as a freelance writer since 2016.

Share This Article
Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
Leave a comment