Christopher Bell led 93 laps on his way to victory lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday despite an issue with the tachometer late. Bell qualified second while pole sitter Brad Keselowski started at the rear of the field for missing the pre-race driver and crew chief meeting. This gave Bell an advantage to lead early on.
After starting at the rear of the field, Keselowski, driving the No. 22 Menards / Richmond Team Penske Ford, found himself at the front of the field on lap 50 just after stage one. The runner-up finisher went on to swipe stage two while eventual race winner took stage one.
“The better tires, they didn’t hurt us that’s for sure,” Bell said when asked how he held of Keselowski in the closing laps. “Always nice to – Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) was able to put four on there and, man, we got going there that long green flag run and I was getting really nervous because I didn’t have a tach (tachometer), so I didn’t really know how I was going to get down pit road, but luckily I’ve got the best spotter on the roof, man, and Tony (Hirschman) was able to kind of guide me and let me know, ‘Alright, I think you can pick it up a little bit,’ and then a couple times he told me to slow it down, so it worked out for us. We were able to take four tires there and that was a big deal.”
The win comes after Bell fended off both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veterans Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski in consecutive weeks.
“That’s pretty special. I never dreamed I would be here at Joe Gibbs Racing. I never dreamed I’d be racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series honestly, but, man, I’m just proud of this entire group at Joe Gibbs Racing,” said Bell after the win. “This No. 20 team works their butts of and really happy for all of our partners at Rheem, Ruud, GameStop, Toyota, obviously everyone at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and bottom line I’m really thankful for Jack Irving, Tyler Gibbs, Pete Willoughby, Keith Kunz. Those guys are the ones that took – put their neck out on the line – so those guys right there put their neck out on the line for me and here I am today.”
Bell, from the state of Oklahoma, earned his fourth career NASCAR XFINITY Series win and his third of 2018. Despite having three wins this year – the 23-year old sits second in the driver points standings going into Iowa Speedway next weekend.
Ryan Preece rounded out the top three finishers on Saturday at the New England oval. The driver of the No. 18 Falmouth Ready Mix Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing started second on the leaderboard after Keselowski’s penalty and will leave with his seventh career top five finish.
John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Tifft rounded out the top five.
Elliott Sadler spoiled the party upfront between the top-three finishers for 26 of the 200 circuits in the Lakes Region 200. The series veteran went on to finish eighth on the leaderboard – earning his 15th top 10 finish this season.
Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon took home top 10 finishes.
Austin Cindric had a clean race going until the final lap. Cindric made hard contact just after Christopher Bell took the checkered flag to win the event. The crash comes after the driver crashed in the opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice session on Friday.
“Honestly, we probably had the best car we’ve had at least with me in the 60 going to the race track. Obviously, we had complications in practice. We had a few complications in qualifying and an outstanding race going,” said Cindric after the race. “We really had awesome long run speed. We were set to finish in the top five and for these guys that’s awesome. Then we sped on pit road, had to come back through the field and did so, but just got tangled up the last lap, the last corner and tore up a lot of stuff. It’s just unfortunate.”
The driver of the No. 60 Ford finished 17th unofficially.
The next race for the NASCAR XFINITY Series will be at Iowa Speedway on July 28. Coverage of the U.S. Cellular 250 will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET. live on NBCSN and MRN.