Pa Bob Pokras
Posted by FOX Sports NASCAR

CONCORD, NC – Christopher Bell didn’t think he would make it NASCARVersion of an elimination win, but he did just that in a chaotic finish Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Bell seemed destined to finish seventh when the track flag fell with five laps to go. He took fresh tires and was the first car to leave pit road. He restarted 18th, but was then able to pass much of the field before another caution allowed him to take over the lead Kevin Harvick on the overtime restart.

Entering the race 45 points under the limit, Bell faced a must-win situation in NASCAR’s semi-final round of the playoffs, dubbed the Final 8. He did just that.

It’s crazy how much emotion you go through,” he said afterward.

Christopher Bell won the heat at Charlotte Roval

Christopher Bell wins overtime at Charlotte as Kyle Larson is out of the NASCAR postseason.

Bell’s win knocked the defending Cup champions out of the game Kyle Larson. Austin Cindric and Daniel Suarez were also eliminated as it was Alex Bowmanwho missed the last two races with a concussion.

bell, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, William Byron and Chase Briscoe advanced to the next round. Briscoe had a frantic last 10 laps, being in a safe spot before the cautions, then falling off the line and late.

NASCAR is investigating whether Briscoe’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Cole Custer, deliberately lost places on the final lap, dropping from eighth to 24th. Any applicable penalties will not affect the semi-final round field.

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Here are three takeaways from the relegation race:

Defending champion

Larson hit the wall and broke a suspension part that required repair, causing him to crash with five laps to go. He was safely in the playoffs until a couple of final cautions.

The team told him he was safe, but he didn’t feel that way and then blamed himself.

“I just made too many mistakes all year,” said Larson, who has two wins this year. “I did another one today [and] ended up costing us the opportunity to chase another championship. Just very angry with myself.’

Larson missed the cut by two points from Briscoe.

Big win for Bell

Had Bell not won, he would have missed the cut and Larson would have advanced to the next round, as in the NASCAR playoffs, the winning driver is awarded a spot in the next round regardless of how many points he earned (or not) in the three racing.

Bell isn’t considered a great road racer, but he won the Daytona road course last year and is good at taking care of his equipment.

“We weren’t the fastest car today, but we put ourselves in position,” he said. “My crew chief made a great call to put the tires on and it worked out where we won the race.”

Bell now has a new lease on life in the playoffs, with Joe Gibbs Racing three points over the limit ahead of the semifinals (Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville) that will determine the four drivers competing for the championship in four weeks at Phoenix.

“We’re still alive,” Bell said. “It’s very good. I wouldn’t have guessed it a week ago or even five hours ago. I like our chances. All the other races are shaping up very well for us.”

Christopher Bell reacts to his victory to advance in Charlotte

Christopher Bell reacts to his victory to advance to the round of 16 in the NASCAR postseason.

Cindric, Suarez is disappointed

Suarez entered the race with a 12-point lead, but he lost power steering during the race and dropped off the pace. He thought it was probably a team issue and was disappointed not to capitalize on what was expected to be one of his best tracks.

“The second half of the race was probably the hardest race I’ve run in my life, but it’s there,” he said. “Unfortunately, as a driver, that’s something I can’t control.”

Cindrik lost track position in the second stage and was unable to recover in the difficult race. He had a chance late on, but was involved in a carnage while trying to gain the necessary position in the final laps and finished 13 places behind the field.

“I didn’t understand and it was just a mess at the back chicane, so overall, I think there are some things we could do better to execute today,” he said.

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has covered motorsports for decades, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, and has worked for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @dashand sign up for FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.

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