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NASCAR takeaways: Christopher Bell wins rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Christopher Bell doesn’t care if some will see his rain-shortened victory in what is supposed to NASCAR’s longest race as one with an asterisk.

Bell will take his Coca-Cola 600 trophy home and the points with it, as he captured the race Sunday night in an event that went only 249 of the scheduled 400 laps (373.5 of the scheduled 600 miles) at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It’s not like we just lucked into this thing,” said Bell, who led a race-high 90 laps. “We led laps. I passed for the lead. We had great pit stops. Pit crew did amazing. It was just 400 miles instead of 600 miles.”

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned his second win of the year after waiting out a two-hour rain delay before NASCAR, which spent more than an hour drying portions of the track, felt it couldn’t get the race restarted by a reasonable time.

The remaining fans booed when the announcement was made over the loudspeaker.

But considering he led 90 laps and made a pass for the lead, Bell felt like a deserving winner.

“I would say so,” Bell said. “The fans probably aren’t going to say so, and that’s fine.”

Here are my takeaways from a race where Bell was declared the winner with Brad Keselowski second, followed by William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin.

NASCAR Cup Series: Coca-Cola 600 Highlights | NASCAR on FOX

Check out the highlights from the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte from the NASCAR Cup Series.

A much-needed win

Bell had earned just one top-10 finish in his last six starts, so having a strong car and winning a race was much needed.

“It was amazing to have a good race, and hopefully this is something we can build on and get back to being more consistent,” Bell said.

While Bell had fast cars earlier in the year, he had just three top-10 starts in the last seven races.

“We just haven’t been running good enough, and nobody deserves accolades whenever you’re not running well, and we have not been running well,” Bell said.

“But today hopefully shows that we have capability.”

Allgaier solid in backup role

Justin Allgaier finished 13th as the substitute driver for Kyle Larson, who couldn’t make the start of the race after the Indianapolis 500 was delayed by rain. Allgaier had to drop to the rear because Larson had qualified the Hendrick Motorsports car.

Allgaier, a veteran of the Xfinity Series with 450 career starts primarily for JR Motorsports and has 82 Cup starts but only six since 2015 and two in the Next Gen era, fell a lap down early but rallied to make it back.

“I was not in a great spot [earlier today] — and it’s not because I was nervous, I felt uncomfortable because I knew what the job was and how tall the task was, to not have any laps, to not have been in this race car at all this year in race conditions with other cars on the race track,” said Allgaier, who does testing of the Cup car for Chevrolet.

“My job was to give Kyle a clean race car that was set up well that could go try to win the race, whether that was Lap 5 or Lap 300. … I was nervous not to let Kyle down.”

Why Larson deserves a waiver for the playoffs

Larson never got in the car as he arrived just as the rains came. He would have gotten in the car if the race had resumed and competed for the final 151 laps.

“I wanted Kyle to run 1,100 miles today — plain and simple,” Allgaier said. “That’s not what happened. And so you kick into ‘You’ve just got to do it mode.’ That’s what we did and ultimately it worked out.” 

A long wait in rain

As a band of thunderstorms approached CMS, drivers felt they were racing for the finish long before the scheduled finish.

Once the rain began, drivers probably thought they were done for the night. But NASCAR kept everyone thinking they would return racing — NASCAR had hoped to resume the race by 12-12:30 a.m. and finish by 2 p.m. but realized at 11:30 p.m. that wasn’t possible.

“Due to inclement weather, high humidity and the likelihood of resuming action after 1 a.m. with the track-drying process, the race has been declared official,” NASCAR said in a statement.

Bell said he was trying to take a nap anticipating a return to racing. His team owner Joe Gibbs said they were possibly 15 minutes from getting the track dry enough for the team to start getting their cars and drivers ready. NASCAR’s decision caught many by surprise.

“What a twist of emotions,” Bell said. “I have never been through that emotion swing before like that in my life.”

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including over 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass.


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