Pit Stops

Grant Park 165

Sunday, July 7th, 2024

Chicago Street Race, Chicago, IL

  • 16 Chevrolet
  • 16 Ford
  • 8 Toyota

  • Thursday, July 4th, 2024
  • NASCAR Wire Service - Reid Spencer
On wet pavement or dry, Christopher Bell is a threat in Chicago Street Race

With the vast majority of drivers hoping for sunshine in Chicago, Christopher Bell may be the most notable exception.

Understandably, Bell would be just as happy to race on wet pavement in Sunday’s Grant Park 165 Chicago Street Race (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Bell recently demonstrated his comfort level on a wet track in winning the June 23 rain-interrupted NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led the final 64 laps on wet-weather tires to score his third victory of the season.

That win, however, didn’t constitute the only successful wet work Bell has done in the Cup Series. In last year’s Chicago Street Race, he led a race-high 37 laps, won the first two stages and at one juncture built a lead of almost nine seconds.

But Bell’s performance was all but lost in the hoopla surrounding New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen’s victory in his NASCAR debut. As the Chicago streets began to dry, the driver known as “SVG” drove like lightning and stole the thunder from the Cup regulars with a late charge from 18th to take the checkered flag.

So don’t blame Bell for hoping for wet conditions on Sunday, despite a forecast that promises mostly sunny skies and a minimal chance of rain throughout the weekend.

“Yeah, I think at this point, I’d probably prefer the rain,” Bell said. “Going into the Chicago Street Race (last year), we had a really good practice, and I was looking forward to a dry race. And then the wet, and when we started the race, we just took off and were really good.

“The track is very, very technical, very high-risk and high-reward. I think it’s Turn 4, which is a very fast section of the race track, gets very tight and you have to push hard there to make some lap time. And I don’t know the turns very well, after we come through that half-circle (Turns 8, 9 and 10) on the backside of the race track, that’s another section that’s super-fast, super-rough.

“Really easy to throw it into the wall there. The race track is filled with a lot of very high-risk, high-reward corners, and if you want to do good, you have to push the car hard and be right on the edge.”

It’s not that Bell hasn’t been fast on both wet and dry tracks this season. He won decisively at Phoenix earlier this season, by 5.465 seconds over runner-up Chris Buescher.

In last Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway, Bell won the first two stages to take a one-point edge over regular-season leader Kyle Larson in Playoff points before spinning out in the final stage.

Joey Logano’s five-overtime victory at Nashville moved the shifted the Playoff bubble to Alex Bowman in the last Playoff-eligible position. Heading for Chicago, Bowman holds a 51-point edge over Bubba Wallace, the first driver below the current cut line.

Bowman hopes to preserve his standing with better luck than he had in last year’s Chicago Street Race.

“Chicago’s honestly pretty fun from the driver’s seat,” said Bowman, who fell out after 40 of 78 laps last year and finished 37th. “We had a failure there last year, so I’m excited to go back there and run that whole race, hopefully, and have a good day, ‘cause we were pretty good there, I felt like.”

Van Gisbergen is a slight favorite over Larson and Bell entering Sunday’s race, but if the Kiwi hopes to repeat his success, he’ll have to do so with a different team. Last year, SVG won in the No. 91 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing. This year, he’s driving the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Camaro.

  • Saturday, July 6th, 2024
  • NASCAR Wire Service - Reid Spencer
Kyle Larson edges Ty Gibbs for Chicago Street Race pole

Kyle Larson made the most of his last chance in qualifying on Saturday, edging Ty Gibbs for the pole position for the Grant Park 165 NASCAR Cup Series on the Chicago Street Course (4:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

On his final lap in the final round of time trials on the tight 2.2-mile course, Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet covered the distance in 87.836 seconds (90.168 mph) to outrun Gibbs (90.158 mph) by .010 seconds.

“It wasn’t perfect,” said Larson, who ran a track-record 90.496 mph (87.518 seconds) in the opening round. “It was better than my first lap (in the final round), but I think I had better grip potential on the first lap, so I wish I could have had a couple corners back there.

“Judging by the reaction from my spotter, it had to be pretty close on lap time, so really awesome to get a pole here in Chicago… (We’ve) checked the first box, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

The Busch Light Pole award was Larson’s series-best fifth of the season and the 21st of his career. His three victories this year, however, have come from starting positions of second, fourth and fifth.

Michael McDowell qualified third at 90.141 mph, followed by Tyler Reddick (89.923 mph) and defending race winner Shane van Gisbergen (89.813 mph).

“I was trying to get my Ford Mustang on the pole,” said McDowell, who won last year’s road race on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Course. “We were close, right? So proud of everybody. We made good changes in between Round 1 and 2 because I felt like Larson and SVG (van Gisbergen) sort of had everybody covered there.

“Then we went into that next round and made some gains and got close. You know what it means to get a pole and track position and all that. So we’re starting up front. We’ll have a great shot at it with the White Sox Ford Mustang.”

Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suárez and Brad Keselowski claimed starting positions six through 10, respectively, though Keselowski spun into the wall during his first final-round lap and was off the pace when he finished the circuit.

Denny Hamlin, last year’s pole winner for the Chicago Street Race, narrowly missed the final 10 and will start 11th on Sunday.

William Byron, a three-time winner this season, suffered a power steering failure in the first round, requiring a complete replacement of the steering system. Byron will start from the rear of the field on Sunday after repairs.

Harrison Burton, in his final season in the Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, ended the first round with a spin into a tire barrier, requiring a tow truck to remove the car. Josh Berry, named earlier in the week as Burton’s replacement next year, spun during the opening round and will start 36th in the 40-driver field.

  • Sunday, July 7th, 2024
  • NASCAR Wire Service - Reid Spencer
Alex Bowman earns NASCAR Cup Playoff berth with strategic Chicago win

On a wet-and-dry day on the streets of Chicago, crew chief Blake Harris made the right call, and driver Alex Bowman promised to wet his whistle after ending an 80-race drought.

“The last time we won, we didn’t really get to celebrate—we’re going to drink so much damn bourbon tonight,” said Bowman, who clinched a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with his victory in Sunday’s Grant Park 165 at the Chicago Street Race.

“It’s going to be a bad deal. I’m probably going to wake up naked on the bathroom floor again. That’s just part of this deal sometimes.”

Driving the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Bowman claimed the eighth victory of his career with a pass of sports car ace Joey Hand on Lap 51—moments before Josh Berry plowed into the tire barrier in Turn 2 of the 2.2-mile, 12-turn course to cause the fifth and final caution.

At that point, the race was on the clock, thanks to a heavy rain that had caused a lengthy stoppage after Lap 25. Facing a deadline of 8:20 p.m., with two laps to follow that point in the race, Bowman held off runner-up Tyler Reddick to win an event shortened from 75 to 58 laps because of the delay.

Harris got his first win as a crew chief by keeping Bowman out on older wet tires after the final caution. Neither Christopher Bell, who arguably had the best car in the race, nor Reddick could catch Bowman over the closing laps.

Bell’s charge to the front was blunted by a five-car melee, and Reddick nicked the wall and lost momentum on the final lap.

“We were catching Alex by a large margin there, and, I don’t know, that puzzles me,” said Reddick, who finished second for the second straight week. “I clearly just screwed up. Trying to stay in the dry groove, and I had more than enough of dry groove… I cut the wheel a little too hard.”

Bowman crossed the finish line with a 3.447-second edge over Reddick to score his first win since March 6, 2022 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“Man, I broke my back (in a sprint car accident), had a brain injury, and we’ve kind of sucked ever since,” Bowman said. “I didn’t… you start to second-guess if you’re ever going to get a chance to win a race again.”

Enhancing Bowman’s opportunity on Sunday was the ill fortune that befell the top two contenders.

Halfway through the restart lap for Stage 2 (Lap 25), the complexion of the race changed dramatically. Chase Briscoe, out of control in his No. 14 Ford, slid toward the tire barrier in Turn 6 and clipped the rear of the Chevrolet of defending winner Shane van Gisbergen.

The impact propelled van Gisbergen’s Camaro nose-first into the outside wall at the exit from the corner, and the car came to rest, unable to continue. Van Gisbergen’s exit suddenly raised the stakes for the drivers who trailed him to the finish line in Stage 1.

After leaving the infield care center, van Gisbergen watched a replay of the incident.

“Just sort of turned in, looked pretty good and then just got smashed by someone (Briscoe),” the New Zealander said. “Just gutting. The car was really good. We were in the lead for a lot of that race and, you know, felt good taking off in the rain. That sucks—an unfortunate mistake by him, but I’m sure he didn’t mean it.

“But, yeah, when he just clipped me, there was nothing I could do. Of course I’m disappointed. We had a pretty amazing Camaro there… I felt like I was driving well within myself. It’s a shame to be out so early and a shame we couldn’t have a proper crack at it at the end.”

By the time Briscoe delivered the coup de grace to the No. 16 Chevy, Gibbs had wrested the lead from Zane Smith, who stayed out on older wet tires, and Bell, who was first off pit road during the stage break.

The field didn’t complete Lap 25 before NASCAR called the second caution of the race for heavy rain. After a red-flag period of 1 hour, 43 minutes, one second, the race resumed and went green on Lap 31, with Bell retaking the lead from Gibbs before completion of that circuit.

On Lap 34, pole winner Kyle Larson, in pursuit of Gibbs, hydroplaned into the Turn 6 tire barrier, damaging his No. 5 Chevrolet beyond repair.

In a race where late strategic calls scrambled the field, Gibbs led a race-high 17 laps and came home third, followed by Hand and Michael McDowell. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Todd Gilliland, William Byron, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.

Bell led 14 circuits, but he, Gibbs and Reddick pitted for slick tires on Lap 43 and couldn’t get back to the front.

For the second straight year, rain shortened the NASCAR Cup race at the Chicago Street Race, but the wet weather did little to diminish the festival atmosphere that captivated the Windy City throughout the weekend.

“I’ve raced about every street course in the country and a lot around the world, and you won’t find a backdrop like this,” said Hand, who led seven laps on wet tires before Bowman led the final eight.

  • Drivers Entered: 40
  • Laps Scheduled: 75
  • Laps Actual: 58 - Race Shortened
  • Margin of Victory: 02.863 Seconds
  • Time of Race: 2 Hours 18 Minutes 24 Seconds
  • Average Speed: 54.921
  • Cautions: 5 for 19 laps
  • Lead Changes: 5
  • Green Flag Passes: 1,386 (35.5 passes per green flag lap)
The NASCAR Garage 56 car during the Rolex 24
Daytona Beach, Florida - January 29, 2023 : The NASCAR Garage 56 car is seen on display during the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
James GilbertGetty Images