NASCAR Round of 8 recap | Bell & Blaney take checkered flags and advance to Championship 4

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Photo of NASCAR Cup Series sign at the race. Photo Courtesy of Zach Catanzareti.

Bell Bags win in Miami

Christopher Bell took home the checkered flag at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, securing his place in the Championship 4 and the chance to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway.

Bell started the race 13th and lost Stages 1 & 2 but managed to pull out a win for himself and Joe Gibbs Racing. Bell and his No. 20 Toyota Camry claimed their second first-place finish of the season.

“Thank you, everyone that supported me. This is better than a dream come true,” Bell said to NBC Sports after his post-race burnout. 

Bell’s victory was a hard-fought one. He battled it out on the challenging 1.5-mile oval, ultimately coming out on top and punching his ticket to the next round of playoffs.

Ryan Blaney won Stage 2 of the race and came in second in his No. 12 Ford Mustang, earning ten points and securing the fourth-place spot in playoffs for this race.

Blaney talked to NBC about his team finding speed in the final stage of the race and what they needed to do to keep up with Bell.

“We were good on long runs all day, and that’s what we needed. I couldn’t go for ten laps, and those guys (Joe Gibbs Racing) got better,” Blaney said. “We were better when it (the track) was a little bit lower grip. I just couldn’t maintain the lead.” 

Despite starting on pole for the start of the race, Martin Truex Jr. suffered an engine problem that finished him 29th at the end of the Miami race. Truex Jr.’s late finish knocked him out of a current playoff spot, leaving him no room to make errors at the race in Martinsville. 

Kyle Larson won out Stage 1 but finished in 34th because of an accident that occurred when he was entering the pit road. Larson crashed into the pit lane wall and was forced to retire from the race, leaving him to watch stage 3 from the sidelines. Larson still holds on to a playoff spot with his win in Las Vegas.

William Byron was able to stay above the cut line with his fourth-place finish at the Homestead Speedway. 

“We just were really tight all day,” Byron said to NBC Sports. “We did a really good job executing our race, managing our long runs and being able to run the fence, but we just built way too tight in the center.” 

Blaney wins out Martinsville to close the Round of 8

Ryan Blaney crossed the checkered line to win first place in his hometown, Martinsville, Virginia, for the Xfinity 500 NASCAR race and snatched the last win of the Round of 8. The victory advances Blaney to the Championship 4 race in Phoenix next weekend for the final race of the NASCAR 2023 season.

“We put together really strong playoffs, especially the round eight. We had a good run on the whole Round of 8,” Blaney said to NBC after his post-race celebration. “Overall, just really proud of the whole effort.” 

With this win, Blaney occupies the No. 1 spot in the fourth and final playoff round. 

Christopher Bell currently holds the second-place seat in playoffs after securing a victory in Miami last race weekend and is advancing to the final round after finishing 7th in his No. 20 Toyota Camry. Bell talked to NBC Sports about the preparation he and his team, Joe Gibbs Racing, will be doing for the upcoming weekend. 

“I’m glad we were able to get out of here with a top ten and have a nice, solid, clean day … going to try and make the most of it next week,” Bell and his team look ahead to Phoenix. 

Kyle Larson currently is third in the playoff standings after securing a win in Las Vegas, the first race in the Round of 8. Larson finished the Martinsville race day in sixth and told NBC that his No. 5 Cherveot Camaro was struggling with speed despite their top ten finish. 

“Bummed we didn’t have a little more speed, but it is Martinsville for me. I’m not very good here so we’ll get through this weekend. [We] look forward to Phoenix and get a chance to race for another Championship,” Larson said.

Hendrick Motorsports currently has two drivers heading into the Championship 4. Larson occupies the third playoff position, and William Byron is currently fourth in the playoffs. 

Byron finished the race 13th and still holds a spot in the championship race despite running “the worst race of the year,” which is how Byron described his and his team’s performance in Martinsville to NBC. 

“With 50 [laps] to go, I felt really really bad and I just had to drive the hell out of it. The guys stuck with me and they just kept motivating me through little bits and pieces and keeping my mind straight,” Byron said. 

Byron plans to move forward from this race to focus on the upcoming Championship 4 race this weekend in hopes of having a better run than the “slugfest” at the Indy 500.

It’s anyone’s game at the Phoenix Raceway, and the drivers and their teams will have to bring their A-games in order to have a shot at the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. 

The race will take place at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona on Nov. 5 for the last race of the NASCAR 2023 season.

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