Make it three in a row.
That’s how many postseason pole positions NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell has captured in a row. The No. 20 Toyota pilot turned a hot lap of 126.997 mph at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, claiming the inside front starting position for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race, the Round of 16 elimination event.
Bell, who has compiled five poles this season, became the first driver to sweep all three pole awards during the opening round of the playoffs. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (126.93 mph) will join Bell on the outside of the front row, missing the top spot by .008 seconds.
“It doesn’t get much closer than that, that’s crazy tight,” Bell said, as reported by NASCAR.com. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s that qualifying means nothing for the race.”
During the opening two Round of 16 races, Bell started P1, but finished 23rd at Darlington Raceway and eighth at Kanas Speedway. Bell enters Saturday ranked No. 10 in the playoff standings, 13 points ahead of No. 13 Martin Truex Jr., the regular-season champion.
William Byron, Michael McDowell and Truex round out the top five starters.
Kyle Larson, the postseason points leader and winner last Sunday at Kansas, stumbled during Friday’s qualifying and will begin last.
— Speedway Digest (@speedwaydigest) September 16, 2023
NASCAR Cup Series’ Denny Hamlin Voices Restart Concerns
During restarts, drivers are expected to remain close so unfair advantages are not created. Driver Denny Hamlin, who placed P2 during the second of three Round of 16 events last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, spoke out on the overtime Hollywood Casino 400 restart.
Kyle Larson started on the outside of the fourth line and appeared to driver at a slower pace, allowing the 2021 Cup champion to gain momentum with a run. Hamlin, in return, lagged back to block the move.
“This is a problem in our series, for sure,” Hamlin said on the Actions Detrimental podcast. “I want to encourage the fans, look at the aerial video of the final restart. It looks like an ARCA restart. There’s cars spread out all over the front stretch. All of that is because somebody started laying back, somebody else started reacting and laying back, then the next car laid back. And if you look, there’s two rows organized, and those were the first two rows of the field. Everyone else was spread way out because everyone’s playing these stupid games at the end that’s bulls#(%.
“It’s just starting to become a trend where these guys are laying way back and they’re getting a run.”
Hamlin lobbied series officials to act on the “problem” before Saturday night’s event at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“NASCAR has said, ‘stop laying back,’ “ Hamlin said. “They’ve said it, but they haven’t done anything about it yet. I would suspect, this week, that they do address it.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 30, 2023
Starting Lineup for NASCAR Cup Series’ Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Here is a look at the lineup for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series’ Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway:
Starting Position, Driver, Car No., Team
- 1, Christopher Bell, 20, Joe Gibbs Racing
- 2, Denny Hamlin, 11, Joe Gibbs Racing
- 3, William Byron, 24, Hendrick Motorsports
- 4, Michael McDowell, 34, Front Row Motorsports
- 5, Martin Truex Jr., 19, Joe Gibbs Racing
- 6, Brad Keselowski, 6, RFK Racing
- 7, Chase Elliott, 9, Hendrick Motorsports
- 8, Ty Gibbs, 54, Joe Gibbs Racing
- 9, Bubba Wallace, 23, 23XI Racing
- 10, Corey LaJoie, 7, Spire Motorsports
- 11, Ryan Blaney, 12, Team Penske
- 12, Tyler Reddick, 45, 23XI Racing
- 13, Alex Bowman, 48, Hendrick Motorsports
- 14, Chase Briscoe, 14, Stewart-Haas Racing
- 15, Kyle Busch, 8, Richard Childress Racing
- 16, Carson Hocevar, 42, Legacy Motor Club
- 17, Ryan Preece, 41, Stewart-Haas Racing
- 18, Austin Dillon, 3, Richard Childress Racing
- 19, Justin Haley, 31, Kaulig Racing
- 20, Chris Buescher, 17, RFK Racing
- 21, Kevin Harvick, 4, Stewart-Haas Racing
- 22, AJ Allmendinger, 16, Kaulig Racing
- 23, Ross Chastain, 1, Trackhouse Racing
- 24, Daniel Suarez, 99, Trackhouse Racing
- 25, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 47, JTG Daugherty Racing
- 26, Aric Almirola, 10, Stewart-Haas Racing
- 27, Ryan Newman, 51, Rick Ware Racing
- 28, Joey Logano, 22, Team Penske
- 29, Austin Cindric, 2, Team Penske
- 30, Todd Gilliland, 38, Front Row Motorsports
- 31, Erik Jones, 43, Legacy Motor Club
- 32, Harrison Burton, 21, Wood Brothers Racing
- 33, Ty Dillon, 77, Spire Motorsports
- 34, BJ McLeod, 78, Live Fast Motorsports
- 35, JJ Yeley, 15, Rick Ware Racing
- 36, Kyle Larson, 5, Hendrick Motorsports
— Kaulig Racing (@KauligRacing) September 15, 2023