For the second consecutive week, Daytona International Speedway crowned a first time NASCAR Cup Series race winner.
Christopher Bell,a Joe Gibbs Racing driver, earned the honor Sunday, Feb. 21, on the track’s road course, taking the lead from Joey Logano with two laps to go and pulling away to a comfortable 2.119-second victory over the former series champion in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253.
Mr. Bell, 26, is the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and this is his second season at the premier level – his first driving for the championship Gibbs organization. His work Sunday, however, was more reminiscent of a veteran. There were eight caution flags, eight race leaders and a whole lot of action in the waning laps to contend with.
He pulled around Mr. Logano in the chicane just yards before the white flag and easily stretched the lead to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series trophy. Mr. Bell’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski.
Kevin Harvick, A.J. Allmendinger, last week’s Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell – also a first-time winner -- Ryan Preece and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10. This is just third season in NASCAR Cup Series history to start the season with two first-time winners; joining 1949 and 1950.
“This is definitely one of the highlights of my life so far," a smiling Mr. Bell said after climbing off the roof of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, where he flashed the No. 1 sign to the grandstands.
The celebration at DIS for Joe Gibbs racing had already started Saturday, Feb. 20.
Ty Gibbs turned in a historic NASCAR Xfinity Series debut, the 18-year-old won in his first series start, holding off reigning champion Austin Cindric on the DIS Road Course in the Super Start 188 at Daytona.
Mr. Gibbs took the lead on a restart in double overtime and held off the field by a comfortable 1.726-seconds at the finish line, dropping to his knees to reflect after climbing out of his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, a car owned by his grandfather, NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs.
With his win in the Super Start Batteries 188, he becomes only the sixth driver to win in his first series start, matching a feat achieved by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt in 1982 and, most recently, by Kurt Busch 15 years ago.
Mr. Gibbs becomes the youngest driver to win an NASCAR Xfinity Series road course event. At 18 years, four months, 16 days, he breaks the record held by Mr. Cindric (20 years old).
“I just cannot thank everybody right now, really this is like a dream come true for me, it’s just awesome," said an emotional Mr. Gibbs, who turned his first ever laps in the car and made his first career pit stop Saturday evening.
Ben Rhodes probably wishes he could race at DIS every Friday night in the NASCAR Camping Word Truck Series.
For the second time in as many weeks, Mr. Rhodes won the truck race, this time on the DIS Road Course, in the BrakeBest Select 159.
It took three overtime starts to secure the victory over 2020 series champion Sheldon Creed, but Mr. Rhodes’ work in the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota marked only the third time in series history a driver has opened the season with back-to-back wins.
Mr. Rhodes, 23, of Louisville, Ky., crossed the finish line .320-seconds ahead of Mr. Creed – the running order frozen, however, when a caution – one of 10 on the night -- came out with a half-lap remaining in overtime.
“Unbelievable, I don’t even have words for it," he said after climbing out of his truck just below the flag-stand on the frontstretch. “I don’t even know what to say, this is so cool.
Racing returns to DIS during Bike Week with the Daytona Supercross, Daytona 200 and other races.
NASCAR will be back Aug. 27-28 with the Wawa 250 Xfinity race and Coke Zero 400 NASCAR series race.