By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
It was Christopher Bell edging out Joey Lagano in the O’Reilly Auto parts 253 road course at Daytona. That earned him his first career cup win. Bell a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing had just returned from his rookie season Leavine Racing Team last year. This gave him a chance to run a top-notch Toyota and he handled it well.
“This was one of the highlights of my life, said Bell. “I’ve prepared for my whole life to race in the Cup Series last year was such a learning curve for me. I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to run in Cup and it definitely prepared me to go to Joe Gibbs Racing.”
While driving with Leavine he had seven top 10 finishes-Not exactly blowing the doors off.
In the past two weeks its Bell and Michael McDowell (last weeks winner) having their first wins at Daytona. That’s only the third time in NASCAR history the first two races of the season were won by first time winners. It was previously done in 1949 and 1950.
McDowell and Bell also have earned two of the 16 play-off spots. The rest of the field will have 26 races to earn their way in with points. Automatic births are given race winners while the rest of the spots are filled with those having the most points.
“To have Christopher in the play-offs that a big deal,” Joe Gibbs said. Ryan Preece (JTG-Daugherty racing ) finished 9th thus giving him a pair of top ten finishes for the first two races. He’s currently seventh in the points standing.
McDowell finished eight this week. After 359 NASCAR starts it was the veterans career best road race finish. Danny Hamlin was third that gave Gibbs two cars in the top three.
“I was trying to hang around the third fastest or fourth fastest all day,” said Hamlin. “That’s kind of what our FedEx Camry had. I’ve got to continue to get better but this is what we had. I was kind of confused on what to do with the strategy there. but obviously it was a great two-days for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and the whole team.”
Bubba Wallace finishes 26th place in the Toyota 23XI. After starting in the 10th spot he spent most of the race between 12 and 20th place.
Last week the 27-year-old finished 17th last week among several big recks. His Car chief was ejected before the race.
Look for big strides by Wallace and Team as the season progresses. This week NASCAR Cup will he to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Dixie Vodka 400 it will be the third straight race in the Sunshine State. The race can be seen on FOX12:30PST.
“The South Florida community is always excited about welcoming fans from across the country,” said track President Al Garcia. “We pride ourselves on personal hospitality and incredible racing at our beautiful colorful facility. We will work with our fans to enjoy the best opportunity to enjoy NASCAR racing at its finest here at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”