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Early-race contenders’ hopes cut short in Chicago

CHICAGO — Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson were 1-2-3 throughout the NASCAR Cup Series race at the Chicago Street Course.

That is until Alex Bowman tried returning to the track after a spin and blew his engine on lap 46.

During the caution, NASCAR shortened the race from 100 laps to 75, anticipating sunset would cut the race short.

Justin Haley, Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott pitted on lap 31, successfully predicting darkness’s impact. They replaced Bell, Reddick and Larson in the lead after they pitted.

Worse yet, Joey Logano, William Byron, Austin Cindric, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Corey LaJoie, and Bubba Wallace also successfully predicted the darkness on lap 42. They buried Bell, Reddick and Larson in 12th-14th.

On the subsequent restart, Byron went wide and caused Harvick to spin off the bumper of LaJoie. That blocked the track, causing Reddick to get damage.

Bell was also involved and Larson was caught in the jam.

The trouble didn’t end for them, either. Bell hit the turn 1 wall on lap 58. Then the following lap, Tyler Reddick nosed into the turn 6 wall and caused a caution.

Bell and Reddick struggled for the rest of the race and finished 18th and 28th, respectively.

Larson, meanwhile, finished fourth. He finished second-best among drivers who pitted after NASCAR’s call.

While NASCAR’s call to shorten the race frustrated the 2021 Cup Series champion’s crew chief more, Larson the running order after the turn 11 track block frustrated them.

“I wasn’t sure when NASCAR put the 54 and the 45 after they got lucky getting around the wreck but it’s something we’ll have to discuss in the drivers’ chat this week,” Larson said.

NASCAR stood behind their decisions post-race.

“We closed pit road and made sure everyone knew the distance. We got some questions from people but we feel comfortable with the decision we made,” NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell said post-race.

Bell, Larson and Reddick are winners this NASCAR Cup Series season and are a virtual lock for the playoffs.


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