Christopher Bell Kicks Off NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs With Richmond Win
Bell claims his fifth win of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season and advances to the playoff round of eight.
Christopher Bell kicked off the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs with a win Friday night in the GoBowling.com 250 at Richmond Raceway. It was Bell’s fifth win of the season.
“I’ll tell you what, buddy, that’s pretty cool,” Bell said. “It’s not very often that you get to win with a car that’s not a winning car, so we’ll take it. Just thank you to my pit crew for the awesome pit stops tonight. Jason Ratcliff [crew chief] did a great job making this thing better each and every time we hit the pit road. Man, I'm just pumped. To be able to sweep Richmond and to get five wins on top of that just couldn’t be happier.”
Bell also won the Xfinity Series race at Richmond in April.
Bell led 67 laps of the 250-lap race, most of any series regular. He took his last lead with a pass on fellow championship competitor Matt Tifft on a Lap 237 restart.
“Luckily, I got to start in the middle of the race track instead of the top of the race track, and that really helped,” Bell said. “I don’t know if the 2 [Tifft] car was getting pressure to the inside or not but I took the lead leaving [turn] two.”
Tifft drifted back to fifth by the checkered flag after leading 15 laps.
In his NASCAR return after retiring from full-time competition as a driver at the end of the 2017 season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 96 laps and finished fourth. He was the only non-playoff driver in the top-five of the finishing order.
Ross Chastain, winner of last weekend’s contest in Las Vegas, finished second in his final entry of a three-race deal that put him in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42. Richard Childress Racing's Daniel Hemric was third in the No. 21 Chevrolet.
Bell started on the pole, and Justin Allgaier led laps early, but Hemric was up front by the time the first stage ended on Lap 75. Bell, Allgaier, Earnhardt Jr., and Hemric battled within the top-four throughout the first stage before Hemric took his stage-winning lead on lap 46.
The eventual race winner was second in both 75-lap stages. Earnhardt Jr. was the frontrunner in the second stage after he passed Bell for the lead on Lap 124 and led most of the round.
Allgaier, the series leader heading into the Richmond race after officially being declared the regular season champion a week earlier, had trouble late. As a result of significant contact on a Lap 226 restart, Allgaier retired from the race and wound up with a 32nd-place finish.
GOBOWLING.COM 250 RESULTS:
1. Christopher Bell, No. 20 Toyota
2. Ross Chastain, No. 42 Chevrolet
3. Daniel Hemric, No. 21 Chevrolet
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet
5. Matt Tifft, No. 2 Chevrolet
6. Elliott Sadler, No. 1 Chevrolet
7. Tyler Reddick, No. 9 Chevrolet
8. Brandon Jones, No. 19 Toyota
9. Shane Lee, No. 3 Chevrolet
10. Ryan Reed, No. 16 Ford
11. Ryan Truex, No. 11 Chevrolet
12. Spencer Gallagher, No. 23 Chevrolet
13. Austin Cindric, No. 22 Ford
14. Michael Annett, No. 5 Chevrolet
15. Cole Custer, No. 00 Ford
16. Jeremy Clements, No. 51 Chevrolet
17. Ryan Sieg, No. 39 Chevrolet
18. Ryan Preece, No. 18 Toyota
19. Mason Diaz, No. 90 Chevrolet
20. David Starr, No. 52 Chevrolet
21. Alex Labbe, No. 36 Chevrolet
22. Joey Gase, No. 35 Chevrolet
23. Ray Black Jr., No. 8 Chevrolet
24. Garrett Smithley, No. 0 Chevrolet
25. J.J. Yeley, No. 38 Chevrolet
26. Chad Finchum, No. 40 Toyota
27. Matt Mills, No. 78 Chevrolet
28. Katherine Legge, No. 15 Chevrolet
29. Bayley Currey, No. 55 Toyota
30. Josh Bilicki, No. 45 Toyota
31. Quin Houff, No. 4 Chevrolet
32. Justin Allgaier, No. 7 Chevrolet
33. Spencer Boyd, No. 76 Chevrolet
34. Ty Majeski, No. 60 Ford
35. Mike Harmon, No. 74 Chevrolet
36. Carl Long, No. 66 Dodge
37. Vinnie Miller, No. 01 Chevrolet
38. Timmy Hill, No. 13 Toyota
39. Jeff Green, No. 93 Chevrolet
40. Morgan Shepherd, No. 89 Chevrolet
UP NEXT: The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs roll into race two on Sept. 29, the unknown of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. It will be the first ever NASCAR race on the oval-road course hybrid and the first series playoff contest on a track resembling a road course.