How Christopher Bell’s New Hampshire Win Shook Up NASCAR Standings

Chase Elliott remains on top

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LOUDON, N.H. — It was a bittersweet (mostly sweet) day in the Granite State for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell took the checkered flag in Sunday’s Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, giving him some much-needed breathing room in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and likely cementing his spot in the playoffs. It was the first victory of the year — and second career win — for the 27-year-old.

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch also had strong days, finishing sixth and 12th, respectively.

And then there’s Martin Truex Jr., who probably feels like he finished dead-last despite claiming the fourth spot.

Truex, who began the day ranked ninth in the NASCAR standings and comfortably in the playoff picture, led 172 of 301 laps at NHMS and largely dominated the race before being slowed down by lap traffic. It’s the latest Loudon disappointment for the veteran, with his 916 laps led at NHMS the most of any driver without a victory at the Magic Mile.

More concerningly, Truex’s spot in the 16-driver playoff field now is in real jeopardy with six races remaining before the start of the postseason

That’s because his teammate’s win now leaves the Cup Series with 14 different winners on the year. Drivers with victories get priority in the standings, meaning those without wins fill out the rest of the field based on total points.

Typically, a driver like Truex, who’s been very good this season, would have nothing to worry about. But if two more drivers enter victory lane in the next six races and Truex finishes the regular season without a win, the 2017 Cup Series champion will be out of luck.

“I’m very nervous,” JGR team owner Joe Gibbs said about Truex’s situation during a post-race press conference.

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Here are the updated NASCAR standings following Sunday’s race in New Hampshire:

1. Chase Elliott
2. Ross Chastain
3. William Byron
4. Joey Logano
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Kyle Larson
7. Kurt Busch
8. Daniel Suarez
9. Tyler Reddick
10. Chase Briscoe
11. Kyle Busch
12. Alex Bowman
13. Austin Cindric
14. Christopher Bell
15. Ryan Blaney
16. Martin Truex Jr.
———————
17. Kevin Harvick
18. Aric Almirola
19. Erik Jones
20. Austin Dillon

One way or another, it should be fascinating rest of the summer for the NASCAR Cup Series.

Next up on the schedule is Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway, win the Verizon 200 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course taking place the following weekend.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr.
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