Bell's only chance of advancing to the next round of playoffs was winning, but that possibility didn’t seem likely until a pair of late-race cautions turned Sunday’s race upside down.
During a caution for debris on lap 105 of the scheduled 109-lap race, Bell pitted for new tyres. On the ensuing restart, A.J. Allmendinger's Kaulig Chevrolet passed 2019 and 2020 roval winner Chase Elliott for the lead before Kevin Harvick did the same thing to Allmendinger.
Just before Harvick was going to take the white flag to start the final lap, another caution was displayed for damage to the backstretch chicane. That sent the race into a two-lap overtime, with Harvick in the lead but Bell on the much fresher tyres in second.
Bell powered around Harvick entering Turn 1 on the start of overtime and hung on for the victory by 1.790 seconds over Harvick, JGR team-mate Kyle Busch and Allmendinger in fourth.
The win is the second of the year for Bell, who secured his playoff place with victory at New Hampshire in July, and the third of his career.
“I came off pit road and I was the first car with (new) tyres. I was just trying to wait and see how I stacked up,” said Bell, the top performing driver in the first round of the playoffs before falling into trouble in the first two races of the second round at Texas and Talladega.
“Then I saw there were 11 cars that stayed out on old tyres. I just said, ‘We’ll roll the dice here and see what happens.’
“You just got to be there at the end of these things. I keep watching all these races where the fastest car doesn’t always win. It’s been no secret that road courses have not been our strength this year but we were just there at the right time.
“We obviously weren’t in position to win, we rolled the dice and gambled and it paid off for us.”
Joining Bell in the playoff's final eight drivers for the semifinal round are Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe.
Reigning series champion Kyle Larson was among the four drivers eliminated from further title contention after being forced to pit under green with a broken toe link which required extended repairs. He was joined by Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman, who missed his second consecutive race with concussion symptoms.
The opening stage was won by poleman Logano, who went on to finish 18th, ahead of Byron.
Allmendinger came on strong in the second stage, surging into the lead for the first time on lap 31 from Tyler Reddick's , but pitted before the end of the stage as Ross Chastain (Trackhouse Chevrolet) stayed out to collect the points.
Chastain dropped out of the running in the third stage after hitting the wall and coming into the garage area for repairs.
At that point, with 20 laps to go, Elliott’s lead over Reddick had grown to 4.7 seconds as Allmendinger ran third and Harvick fourth.
But Reddick's challenge was hampered on lap 95 when he missed the backstretch chicane and had to serve a stop-and-go penalty.
NASCAR displayed a caution for debris on the track – a sign that was knocked on the track and run over by Suarez - on lap 105, which prompted several lead-lap cars to pit. Bell was the first off pit road, while Elliott remained on the track and in the lead when the race returned to green on lap 107.
Allmendinger and Elliott tangled entering Turn 1, with Allmendinger briefly grabbing the lead before Harvick muscled Allmendinger out of the way and escaped with the lead. Shortly after that, Elliott got knocked off course in Turn 6 by Reddick.
With one lap to go, NASCAR threw a caution for damage to the kerbs in the backstretch chicane to send the race into a two-lap overtime, allowing Bell to make his critical pass on Harvick.
Justin Haley finished fifth, as Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Reddick, Briscoe and Dillon completed the top 10.
IndyCar racer Conor Daly finished 34th on his NASCAR Cup debut in the #50 TMT Racing Chevrolet, while former GP3 sparring partner Daniil Kvyat was an early retirement with engine problems in his #26 Team Hezeberg Toyota and classified 39th.
NASCAR Cup Charlotte Roval - Race Results (112 laps)
|17||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||3:00'05.161||11.151|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Chevrolet||3:00'10.063||16.053|
|28||Harrison Burton||Ford||3:00'09.512||1 Lap|
|29||Mike Rockenfeller||Chevrolet||3:00'14.092||1 Lap|
|30||Todd Gilliland||Ford||3:00'23.406||1 Lap|
|31||Josh Williams||Ford||3:00'08.858||2 Laps|
|32||J.J. Yeley||Ford||3:00'13.778||2 Laps|
|33||Loris Hezemans||Ford||3:00'17.880||2 Laps|
|34||Conor Daly||Chevrolet||3:00'19.207||3 Laps|
|35||Kyle Larson||Chevrolet||3:00'07.994||5 Laps|
|36||Daniel Suarez||Chevrolet||3:00'17.637||5 Laps|
|37||Ross Chastain||Chevrolet||3:00'45.725||9 Laps|
|38||Joey Hand||Ford||2:04'50.705||33 Laps|
|39||Daniil Kvyat||Toyota||24'31.228||95 Laps|
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