After Michael McDowell won the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season opener, Christopher Bell became the second first-time winner in two races this year.
The NASCAR Cup Series has seen at least two new first-time winners since the 2016 season, when both Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher took the checkered flag for the first time in their careers.
Two races into the 2021 season, the same can already be said.
Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway last Sunday to secure his first career win in his 358th start, going all the way back to the 2008 season.
McDowell led only the final lap of the 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked oval in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Today, at the same venue but at the 14-turn, 3.61-mile (5.810-kilometer) road course layout, it was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell who took the checkered flag for the first time in his career.
It was just his second start behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota, as he competed for Leavine Family Racing as a rookie last year. He secured his first win in his 38th career start. He took advantage of the new tires (slick tires, not rain tires) he got when NASCAR controversially threw a caution flag for rain, at which point Bell was running in second place behind Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, who had dominated the race at that point.
Bell came out of the pits ahead of Elliott, and Elliott ran into trouble multiple times throughout the rest of the race before ultimately settling for 21st place, ending his streak of four consecutive road course wins.
Meanwhile, Bell was able to get back to the front. He ran down Team Penske’s Joey Logano, who did not come into the pits under the rain caution, and he passed him for the lead with two laps remaining.
While Bell had led three laps earlier in the race, it marked the second straight week at Daytona International Speedway that Logano had seen his lead taken away with under two laps remaining. Last week, he crashed on the final lap, allowing McDowell to secure the win when the caution flag flew as he made his way through turn three.
Will the Cup Series see a third consecutive first-time winner next Sunday, February 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway? The Dixie Vodka 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.