Questions answered after Ambetter 301 of 2022


Questions answered after Ambetter 301 of 2022

Who… should you be talking about after the race?

Darkness denied him a chance to challenge for victory a year ago but this time there was plenty of daylight despite a brief shower before the race. Christopher Bell With 42 laps to go, he passed Chase Elliott in the Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and effortlessly controlled his own destiny from there.

At one point, Bell crew chief Adam Stevens said he was in control of the race and didn’t need the lap counts the team radioed him. The No. 20 crew complied, and Bell took it from there, racing to his first win of 2022.

Bell didn’t have a great car to begin with, but his team improved as the day went on and their driver was able to close traffic and overtake when it mattered. It was a very good race for the Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota camps with five Camrys in the top 10: three from the JGR stable and two more from 23XI Racing.

And don’t forget Bubba Wallace. Earlier in the weekend, Wallace’s effort in the NASCAR Cup Series in New Hampshire produced less than stellar results, averaging a 23.8 average score. This time, Wallace grabbed the bull by the horns and dropped his best Cup Series qualifying performance to date, starting fourth. He stayed in the top 10 throughout the race, finishing second and tenth in the first two stages before coming home in a strong third.

Why is?

Don’t look now, though Silly Season is here. It started slowly a few weeks ago when Martin Truex Jr. announced he would return to the No. 19 next year, but it really picked up this week. Tyler Reddick, after his first career win at Road America, announced that he will join 23XI Racing in 2024, leaving Richard Childress Racing after a NASCAR Xfinity Series title and at least one cup win. Whether that endangers Reddick’s seat for 2023 is still a question mark.

A day later, Petty GMS Motorsports announced that the team would part ways with Ty Dillon after this year, fueling even more speculation: will Dillon inherit his grandfather’s number 8 already next year? That seems unlikely as RCR have had opportunities to add younger Dillon to the stable before, but have not. It’s possible that Petty GMS is considering an alliance switch for 2023, meaning it doesn’t have to run Dillon to benefit from RCR.

Still up in the air: The number 10. Aric Almirola said in a press conference over the weekend that he is considering staying in the car for another year but has made no concrete decision to consider retiring. Kyle Busch and Bell, meanwhile, haven’t announced an extension but will likely stay. Silly Season could be almost over…or another sudden storm could be brewing.

Where… did the other key characters end up?

pole sitter True Stage one won. Then he won the second stage. And then he got caught in traffic, a position he hadn’t really been in during the day. His car wasn’t doing as well as it had in front and he couldn’t charge back to the front and stalled in fourth. Despite the most stage wins in 2022, Truex has yet to close the book on one race.

leader Eliot had a rocketship off a car and found a line low on the track that suited him perfectly. He worked his way up the field and found the lead late in the day. Elliott sped through the field for 13 laps before Bell found his own rocket of a line and got through. Elliott still finished second, a career best at the Magic Mile.

Defending race winners Almirola came back to NHMS with a fast car and a little more confidence. He qualified seventh and finished early in the top 10 only to fall victim to a broken shifter. His team fixed it and sent the No. 10 out again, but Almirola finished 31st, 19 laps off the pace.

Active win leader in New Hampshire Kevin Harvick had a chance to become the all-time winner by breaking a tie with Jeff Burton; For a while it looked like he could do well. Harvick qualified 10th and finished second at the end of stage two, winning at Truex. Unfortunately for Harvick, the stage ran out of laps. Different pit strategies left him lower in the top 10 for the final stage, and he made his way back to battle Wallace before settling for fifth.

When… was the moment of truth?

New Hampshire was a test for the next generation car. The car was at its best on medium-difficulty tracks, but the show on the shorter flat tracks was a weak point. Early in the race the field was mostly single-row and it looked like another bad testament to the next generation. However, the race improved and the second half saw a lot of good fights throughout the field. Bell was able to catch and pass Elliott’s powerful car, and there were many passes, some going side-by-side for multiple laps.

Tempers flared a few times. Denny Hamlin rubbed the No. 1 Ross Chastain once, and Austin Dillon sparked a feud with Brad Keselowski after Keselowski accidentally bumped him during the race. Dillon converted into Keselowski when the field came to a caution flag for Kyle Busch, and Keselowski retaliated immediately after Dillon’s move caused a puncture on his No. 6. Keselowski recovered and finished a much needed seventh place.

Why… should you pay attention this week?

The regular season concludes next weekend with a trip to Pocono Raceway. Pocono is an animal of its own a track that is notoriously difficult to set up because all three corners are completely different.

It’s also a track where a rider in need of a boost can post in the wins column. Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Harvick and Keselowski have won the Tricky Triangle and need one to secure a playoff spot when the odds dwindle. Do you want a dark horse? Erik Jones is also excellent on the track and his No. 43 team has shown brilliant flashes this year. There are many opportunities for a great degree.

How…tight will this playoff race be?

A year ago, Almirola’s win in New Hampshire raised a similar question that was far-fetched at the time. Suddenly, the odds aren’t nearly as good this time. Bell is the 14th winner of the year with six races remaining in the regular season. That wouldn’t necessarily be a concern, but drivers who didn’t win this year include Truex, Harvick and Blaney. Plus, Buescher was a menace on street courses (there’s a couple left) and anyone could dodge the chaos and sneak in at Daytona International Speedway.

In other words, it’s tight. Truex is currently on the cutline. If there’s another winner that’s not him or Blaney, he’s out without a win. Harvick is already out looking in without this top finish.

And if we see three more winners, a possibility given the schedule? Someone with a win is out. It’s tighter than ever.

Follow @Writer_Amy

Sign up for the Frontstretch newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) with race news, comments, features and information from
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or given to third parties.

Share this article

You May Also Like