Christopher Bell Outduels Brad Keselowski in Xinity race at New Hampshire
LOUDON, NH – RIS – Christopher Bell held of a hard charging Brad Keselowski to win the Xfinity race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Satuday. The 23-year-old Bell held off hard-charging 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski over the final 18 laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to win his second straight Xfinity Series race.
Bell pulled off the towering achievement of winning two straight Xfinity races against former champs from NASCAR's top-tier series who moonlight on Saturdays. Bell topped 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch to win last week's race at Kentucky Speedway and he followed up Saturday in the No. 20 Toyota by keeping Keselowski at bay down the stretch for his third win this season.
"You hope to race those guys at one point, so I'm thankful that I get the opportunity here in the Xfinity Series to race with them and proud that I'm able to compete with them, let alone beat them," Bell said.
Keselowski had won the pole Saturday but was dropped to the rear of the field because he was late to the mandatory drivers meeting. It proved to be nothing more than a mild inconvenience for Keselowski in the No. 22 Ford. He stormed past the second-tier regulars and had his fourth straight Xfinity win in sight.
Bell, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, had the fresh tires that Keselowski needed and that was enough to ring in a victory lane celebration. Bell gave his checkered flag to a young fan in the stands.
"I hope it means a lot more to that kid than it is to me," he said. "You know, we get trophies, we get all sorts of trophies, so hopefully it means a lot to that kid."
JGR fields cars for Busch and Bell, one reason it's continued to have success in Xfinity.
"They've won before me, they're going to win after me," Bell said. "It's my job to make sure they win with me."
Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Tift completed the top five to complete a solid showing for the Xfinity regulars.
"You see all this crap going around the Internet that Cup guys shouldn't be allowed in Xfinity," Bell said. "Why?"
Because Xfinity is supposed to be the series where the stars of NASCAR's future are discovered. Instead, they spent this season looking up at Cup regulars Busch, Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Austin Dillon as race winners.
But Bell said he wanted them in Xfinity so he could race against the best drivers in NASCAR.
Busch led more than 100 laps last week at Kentucky before he faded late and Bell took advantage for the win. At New Hampshire, Bell was aided by four fresh tires down the stretch that helped make the difference.
Keselowski nipped at Bell's bumper over the final three laps but could never reel him in for the decisive pass.
"I didn't have any rear left tire," Keselowski said. "I think we would have won today on four (tires) but that's not the way it played out."
Bell, the 2017 Truck Series champion, is certainly talented enough to find himself in a Cup ride the next few years. It's just a matter of where he'll fit in a series where top rides are scarce.
Bell said he's just getting started in Xfinity.
"Whenever you come to here, you step in this equipment at Joe Gibbs Racing, you're expected to win," he said. "Pressure's on for you to deliver and thankfully I've been able to deliver, at least some of the time."
Keselowski passed Bell for the lead on Lap 146 and looked well on his way to cruising to his third career win on the Magic Mile. On the final green flag pit sequence shortly thereafter, Keselowski elected to take just two tires on his final stop. Bell and most of the other leaders decided to go with four fresh Goodyear’s. They had to do something different in hopes a caution flag would fall.
Keselowski, who initially earned the pole in his No. 22 Ford had to settle for a runner-up. He won his previous two starts on the season and now has a second place effort to go with it. He missed the pre- race drivers meeting and had to give up his top starting spot as a result. He’d quickly charge through the field though and would have won.
Ryan Preece gave JGR two of the top three finishers with his third place run in his No. 18 Toyota. He was second in this very race last year.
John Hunter Nemechek tied his career best series finish of fourth (finished fourth in Atlanta too) while Matt Tifft rounded out the top five.
The series has a standalone event next weekend at the Iowa Speedway.
Unofficial Race Results for the 29th Annual Lakes Region 200 - Saturday, July 21, 2018 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, NH -
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 2, Christopher Bell #, No. 20 Rheem Toyota, 200, 1, 8, 3, 93, 6, 53, Running
2) 1, Brad Keselowski(i), No. 22 Menards/Richmond Ford, 200, 5, 1, 5, 72, , 0, Running
3) 3, Ryan Preece, No. 18 Falmouth Ready Mix Toyota, 200, 2, 3, 3, 6, , 51, Running
4) 5, John Hunter Nemechek, No. 42 D.A.B. Constructors Inc. Chevrolet, 200, 3, 5, , , , 47, Running
5) 14, Matt Tifft, No. 2 National Brain Tumor Society Chevrolet, 200, 9, 10, , , , 35, Running
6) 8, Brandon Jones, No. 19 XYO Networks Toyota, 200, 6, 4, , , , 43, Running
7) 7, Justin Allgaier, No. 7 Dove Men + Care Chevrolet, 200, 8, , , , , 33, Running
8) 10, Elliott Sadler, No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet, 200, 10, 6, 1, 26, , 35, Running
9) 4, Cole Custer, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford, 200, 7, , , , , 32, Running
10) 11, Austin Dillon(i), No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 0, Running
11) 6, Daniel Hemric, No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet, 200, 4, 2, 1, 3, , 42, Running
12) 24, Ryan Reed, No. 16 Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes Ford, 200, , , , , , 25, Running
13) 13, Ryan Truex, No. 11 Phantom Fireworks Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 16, Kaz Grala #, No. 61 IT Coalition/15-40.org Ford, 200, , , , , , 23, Running
15) 17, Ryan Sieg, No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet, 200, , 9, , , , 24, Running
16) 19, Michael Annett, No. 5 TMC Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 21, Running
17) 15, Austin Cindric #, No. 60 Pirtek Ford, 200, , 7, , , , 24, Running
18) 18, Jeremy Clements, No. 51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet, 200, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 12, Johnny Sauter(i), No. 23 ISM Connect Chevrolet, 199, , , , , , 0, Running
20) 25, Tommy Joe Martins, No. 78 JW Transport LLC Chevrolet, 199, , , , , , 17, Running
21) 34, Chad Finchum #, No. 40 MBM Motorsports/Smithbilt Homes Toyota, 198, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 22, Joey Gase, No. 35 Sparks Chevrolet, 198, , , , , , 15, Running
23) 21, Alex Labbe #, No. 36 RoyAuto.com/VR Victoriaville Chevrolet, 198, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 29, Spencer Boyd #, No. 76 Grunt Style Chevrolet, 198, , , , , , 13, Running
25) 9, Tyler Reddick #, No. 9 Takl Chevrolet, 196, , , , , , 12, Running
26) 20, Ross Chastain, No. 4 Flex Seal Chevrolet, 196, , , , , , 11, Running
27) 35, Vinnie Miller #, No. 01 JAS Expedited Trucking LLC Chevrolet, 195, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 27, David Starr, No. 52 Chevrolet, 195, , , , , , 9, Running
29) 37, Bayley Currey(i), No. 55 Prevagen Toyota, 190, , , , , , 0, Running
30) 40, Angela Ruch, No. 8 Give A Child A Voice Chevrolet, 188, , , , , , 7, Running
31) 39, Mike Harmon, No. 74 Horizon Transport Chevrolet, 182, , , , , , 6, Running
32) 28, Garrett Smithley, No. 0 FAME/fame-usa.com Chevrolet, 176, , , , , , 5, Accident
33) 30, Donald Theetge, No. 90 Mercedes-Benz St. Nicolas/Circuit Acura Chevrolet, 172, , , , , , 4, Running
34) 33, Josh Bilicki #, No. 45 Prevagen Toyota, 165, , , , , , 3, Ignition
35) 26, BJ McLeod, No. 15 teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet, 130, , , , , , 2, Engine
36) 23, JJ Yeley, No. 38 RSS Racing Chevrolet, 113, , , , , , 1, Brakes
37) 38, Carl Long, No. 66 TLC Resorts Chevrolet, 62, , , , , , 1, Brakes
38) 32, Timmy Hill, No. 13 OCR Gaz Bar Toyota, 57, , , , , , 1, Vibration
39) 36, Morgan Shepherd, No. 89 Visone RV Chevrolet, 32, , , , , , 1, Brakes
40) 31, Jeff Green, No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet, 22, , , , , , 1, Brakes
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
Total Race Length - 200 Laps - 211.6 Miles
Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 07 Mins, 27 Secs.
Average Speed: 99.616 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.416 Seconds
Race Comments: Christopher Bell won the Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his fourth victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Prior to the start of the race, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field under penalty for the reasons indicated: Nos. 15, 22 (late to driver/crew chief meeting) and No. 16 (unapproved adjustment).
Caution Flags: 7 for 33 laps:
Laps: 47-53 (End of Stage 1 )
72-74 (Debris on Backstretch )
81-83 (No. 4 Incident Between Turn 3 and 4 )
86-88 (No. 11, 16, 7 Incident Turn 2 )
92-98 (End of Stage 2 )
168-173 (No. 51 Incident Turn 4 (Red Flag: 7:30) )
179-182 (No. 40, 0 Incident Turn 2 ).
Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers: B. Keselowski(i) 0
C. Bell # 1-48
R. Preece 49
B. Keselowski(i) 50-53
R. Preece 54-57
B. Keselowski(i) 58-83
R. Preece 84
B. Keselowski(i) 85-93
E. Sadler 94-119
C. Bell # 120-145
B. Keselowski(i) 146-163
D. Hemric 164-166
B. Keselowski(i) 167-181
C. Bell # 182-200.
Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race: Toyota Racing Development (TRD), No. 20
Mobil 1 Driver of the Race: Christopher Bell, No. 20
Sunoco Rookie of the Race: Christopher Bell, No. 20
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.