“I’m Going Home”- Christopher Bell Painfully Concedes Defeat to Chase Elliott After Heartbreaking Season Opener

Published 02/04/2024, 9:29 AM EST

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Just when we thought the start to the 2024 NASCAR season couldn’t have been wilder with the last-minute change to holding the race on Saturday, the biggest shocks were yet to emerge as qualifying was right around the corner. And while Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, including Denny Hamlin, Ty Gibbs, and Martin Truex Jr were some of the favorites for the night, the man who had delivered back-to-back Championship 4 appearances for Coach Gibbs was unfortunately out of the Clash before it had even started.

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And he wasn’t the only one. Even Chase Elliot, who had commended NASCAR earlier for their swiftness in dealing with the weather situation at hand, joined Bell, who suffered a heartbreak after a DNF ended his race owing to a wreck. However, Chase Elliott would indeed get the upper hand on Christopher Bell during qualifying, a trend that carried forward into the race since Bell failed to even qualify.

Christopher Bell fails to keep up with Denny Hamlin and Co. at the Coliseum

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As the weekend began to take shape, Joe Gibbs Racing was quickly emerging as the most dominant force on the track. During practice, all JGR cars were performing to the best of their ability. Moving onto qualifying, Hamlin confirmed JGR’s pace by securing pole position. So it was naturally expected by many that Christopher Bell would also not have any issues making it into the race, right?

Hamlin himself had reflected on the JGR car’s pace and felt the team was at an advantage. He was quoted by Racing America, saying, “Been pretty happy with this Sport Clips Toyota so far. We’ve only had short runs here and there, and you never know with the Clash. Certainly, with the lesser field amount, the strong cars can really show. I think Chris [Gabehart] and the team did a great job preparing a great car for me and just driving it all we can.”

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As the race began to unfold, even with the absence of Christopher Bell and with Martin Truex Jr managing to hold on to the top ten, it was ultimately Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin’s contention for the win that had fans buzzing with excitement. On the other hand, Christopher Bell had no one but himself to critique post-qualifying, dismissing Elliott’s involvement in blocking him during qualifying. He stated in a video uploaded by Bob Pockrass on X, “Yeah, I don’t know. I couldn’t get a good lap in for some reason, so, I’m going home. He (Chase Elliott) was a lot faster than me so, I was in the way.”

While Christopher Bell had certainly been on the rise the last two seasons, especially with his introduction in Netflix’s NASCAR: Full Speed series, it looks like the Clash caught many of the drivers touted for top ten contention off guard. While we know that pace issues in qualifying caused Christopher Bell’s heartbreak, the case for Chase Elliott was much more complicated.

Chase Elliott ‘broke something’ during the Busch Light Clash

On one hand, Chase Elliott’s entry into the Busch Light Clash wasn’t shaping up to be hopeful enough, with his position well outside the top ten. But just when the 28-year-old started to change his fortunes, luck decided it wasn’t his time to shine. Plagued with suspension issues, Elliott had to pull off the track and had no choice but to drop out of the exhibition race.

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In a video shared by Xfinity Racing on X, the pit crew can be seen scratching their heads while analyzing Elliott’s car. Unfortunately, the issues plaguing the #9 Chevrolet were too complicated to fix then and there. Speaking to his pit crew, Elliott told them that he “broke something here”, which turned out to be the left front steering arm. This meant Elliott’s start to the 2024 season wasn’t what the Most Popular Driver was expecting after Denny Hamlin wooed the entire crowd at the Coliseum.

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WATCH THIS STORY: Hamlin’s worries over NASCAR charter negotiations 

It’s safe to say the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum gave us many heartbreaks and success stories, much before the main race even began, with both Elliott and Bell on the back foot. Do you think the Daytona 500 will treat them any better?

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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Kabir Bajaj Ahmed is an F1 & NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Known for his storytelling and extensive research skills, he has covered multiple stories on Dale Earnhard Jr and his legendary dad, allowing readers to relive the thunderous days of 'The Intimidator'. Being a racer himself, Kabir can resonate with the motorsport world better than most.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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