The Round of 12 started in a truly unexpected way for multiple playoff contenders. Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, and Alex Bowman headlined the list of Cup Series drivers that hit the wall at Texas Motor Speedway and sustained significant damage.
The reigning regular-season champion had the biggest issue. Elliott hit the wall hard late in Stage 2 while trying to hold off Ryan Blaney for the lead. This hard collision destroyed the right side of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro and sparked a sizable fire. Elliott was able to climb from the stock car in the middle of the infield grass, but his day came to an end in 32nd place.
According to NBC Sports’ Marty Snider, Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson said that the issue was a right rear tire failure that caused the collision as opposed to the infamous bump on the track in Turn 4 that upset several other drivers.
Regardless of the issue, Elliott started his second consecutive round with a DNF. This issue took away all of his bonus points and dropped him very close to the cutline heading toward Talladega Superspeedway, the most dangerous track of the round.
“It’s not a great position to be in for sure, but it is what it is now,” Elliott said after exiting the infield care center. “I hate it for our No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team. We were actually decent here for once, so that was nice while it lasted. We’ll go to Talladega, try to get a win, and go on down the road.”
Bell’s Texas Emphasis Did Not Play Out
Bell was the first of these playoff drivers to experience issues. He brought out the caution late in Stage 1 after a right rear tire went down and sent him spinning. He was able to get back on track after this incident and work his way back into contention, but another right rear tire issue in Stage 2 sent him into the wall.
Bell broke the toe link during this second incident, which put him on the DVP clock. The No. 20 team attempted to make repairs on the Toyota Camry, but they couldn’t get the stock car back on the track in time. Bell’s day came to an end with a 34th-place finish.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver entered the Round of 12 with a focus on Texas Motor Speedway. His goal was to either win or stack as many points as possible before taking on Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval. Now, however, he sits in what is essentially a must-win situation with two races remaining in the round.
“I don’t know. Talladega — I guess we are going to go roll the dice,” Bell said about his playoff chances after exiting the infield care center. “Roval, I think we will be alright. Road courses haven’t been our strength, but we have been good at a couple of them. I don’t know if we are going to be able to get out of this points hole, but we will give it our best.”
Bowman’s Crew Made Some Necessary Repairs
Bowman’s issue was completely unexpected. He started the race at the rear of the top 20, but he worked his way up to eighth overall near the end of Stage 1. He was within reach of some crucial points that would help him gain ground on his fellow drivers when he suddenly slammed into the wall.
The replay showed that Bowman’s stock car just snapped loose and sent him into the outside wall. His stock car sustained extensive damage and knocked him out of contention for a win that would have sent him to the Round of Eight.
While Bell and Elliott had to head to the infield care center for evaluation, Bowman avoided climbing from his stock car. This was not simple, however, considering that his team had to make extensive repairs while trying to beat the DVP clock.
They achieved this goal and got Bowman back on track with one minute remaining of the allotted 10. He met minimum speed in the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro while remaining nine laps behind the leaders. Though he was able to gain ground by putting himself in a position to be the free pass.
Bowman spent the remainder of the race fighting for the free pass position, and he ended the 500-mile event five laps down with only eight total points. This dropped him to 30 points below the cutline heading toward Talladega Superspeedway, a track where he has four top-10 finishes and a career-best of second in 2019.