Late-Race Accident Spoils Bell's Bid for Phoenix Victory

Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) teammates Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson had combined to lead the first 140 laps of Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway when a five-truck accident set up a 10-lap dual in the desert.
Having inched past Gragson to regain the lead moments before the caution flew, Bell elected to take the outside lane for the lap-140 restart. For over two laps the teammates battled side-by-side rubbing fenders for the race lead. As they exited turn four with eight laps remaining, Gragson got loose underneath Bell and spun up the track crashing hard into the outside wall before caroming back across the track into another truck. While trying to avoid the spinning Gragson, Bell made contact with the outside wall resulting in heavy damage to the right side of his No. 4 Toyota Tundra.
When pit road opened, Bell surrendered the lead to bring his Tundra to the attention of his over-the-wall crew. After clearing the right-side fenders and putting on fresh right-side tires, they returned their driver to the track scored in the 10th position for the ensuing restart with three laps remaining.  The Oklahoma native gained two spots in the closing laps to earn an eighth-place finish.
By finishing the Round of 6 with the most points of the six drivers remaining in the playoffs, Bell earned one of the four spots in the championship race next Friday at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
Stage One Recap: 
  • Bell started the 150-lap race from the pole, while Gragson started from the second spot. Gragson would lead the first nine laps of the race, before Bell made his way back around him for the lead on lap 10.
  • The Oklahoma native would cruise to the Stage One victory, finishing over three seconds ahead of his teammate.
  • With the 10 points earned from the Stage One victory, Bell clinched a spot in the championship round. 
Stage Two Recap: 
  • Bell reported that the handling of his Tundra was good, but "migrated tight in lap traffic." When pit road opened, crew chief Rudy Fugle ordered up a right-side tire and fuel stop. With all lead-lap trucks following Bell down pit road, the No. 4 Toyota returned to the track at the front of the field when Stage Two went green on lap 48.
  • Bell had over a two-second lead on Gragson when one-truck accident slowed the field on lap 76 and ended Stage Two under caution. 
Final Stage Recap: 
  • When pit road opened, Fugle ordered up a four-tire and fuel stop and returned Bell back to the track with the lead for the start of the Final Stage on lap 87.
  • Two laps into the Final Stage, Gragson worked his way around Bell for the lead and would remain out front until the third caution of the event occurred on lap 122.
  • Gragson chose the outside lane for the lap-128 restart, but Bell would lead momentarily on lap 129. Gragson regained the lead on lap 130, just before a five-truck accident brought out the red flag on lap 131.
  • On the ensuing restart, Bell would work his way around Gragson just before another five-truck accident brought out another red-flag condition.
  • When the field went back green, the teammates battled hard for the race lead for over two laps before Gragson spun. The accident resulted in damage for both KBM Tundras.
  • While Gragson was done for the night with major damage, Bell's Tundra was able to continue, but severe damage to the right side would keep him from competing for the win.
  • After hitting pit road for damage repair and fresh right-side tires, Bell would limp to the finish in the eighth position. It was the 22-year-old's series-leading 20th top-10 finish of the season.   


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Steven B. Wilson

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