NASCAR: Christopher Bell not the big winner at New Hampshire

Christopher Bell earned his third victory of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but he wasn't the biggest winner of the USA Today 301.
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell made two trips to victory lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the weekend, first on Saturday after winning the Xfinity Series race and then on Sunday after winning the Cup Series race.

Bell's Cup Series win was his third of the season, tying him for the series lead with teammate Denny Hamlin and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and William Byron. The win also moved him up to sixth place in the point standings.

Those four drivers are the only four drivers with multiple victories through the 2024 season's first 18 races and are therefore the only four drivers technically locked in the four-round, 10-race playoffs.

The 16 playoff spots are awarded to the regular season champion, whether he wins a race or not, and the 15 drivers who rank highest in wins. There can be no more than 13 multi-race winners in the 26-race regular season, so those four drivers are safe.

However, there can still be more than 16 total winners, in which case the tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners are in and which aren't would become points.

Christopher Bell not the biggest winner at New Hampshire

Six drivers have won one race so far this year, and there are still eight races remaining on the regular season schedule, meaning that there could still be as many as 18 winners by the time the playoffs start.

The single-race winners include Hendrick Motorsports' Chase Elliott, 23XI Racing's Tyler Reddick, Team Penske's Ryan Blaney, and RFK Racing's Brad Keselowski, all of whom find themselves in the top 10 in the point standings and can be reasonably considered safely locked into the postseason.

But Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez and Team Penske's Austin Cindric sit in 18th and 21st place, respectively, so they were both more than willing to accept another trip to victory lane for Bell, considering the fact that the alternative was having an 11th different winner emerge.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Chase Briscoe and Josh Berry, both of whom are winless and not currently in the provisional 16-driver playoff picture, finished the race in second and third place, respectively. Winless Chris Buescher of RFK Racing finished in fifth, so the USA Today 301 was relatively close to producing a new winner.

Instead, there is one less opportunity for that 10-winner tally to grow before the regular season comes to an end, which gives Suarez and Cindric a little bit more breathing room.

It also helps out drivers such as Team Penske's Joey Logano and 23XI Racing's Bubba Wallace, who find themselves just a handful of points either above the cut line or below it.

A winner on Sunday from below them in the point standings would have moved up the cut line and thus made locking in on points – or even potentially locking in with a win, depending on how many winners there end up being – a lot more challenging.

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The 19th race on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule is the Ally 400, which is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Nashville Superspeedway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, June 30. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss any of the action!