Box Score Info:
- RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series – Lakes Region 200
- TRACK: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
- DRIVER: Christopher Bell
- CAR: No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry
- START: 2nd
- FINISH: 1st
- LAPS: 200/200
Coming off an impressive victory last weekend in Kentucky, Christopher Bell and his Rheem team looked to keep the momentum rolling as they made their only visit of the 2018 season this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. After qualifying second for the 200-lap event on Saturday Morning, Bell took the lead following the drop of the green flag and never looked back, leading a race-high 93 laps and earning his third victory of the 2018 season.
Bell and his Rheem team would dominate stage one, grabbing the lead on lap one and going on to lead 45 laps to grab the stage one victory. Under the caution, Bell relayed to his team that his Camry “needed to turn just a little bit better in turns three and four.” Once pit road was open, crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted stage two in fourth on lap 53.
Following the restart, Bell picked up one spot by lap 54 and maintained his position until the second caution of the afternoon waved on lap 71 for debris. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in third on lap 74. Continuing to run consistent lap times following the restart, Bell maintained his hold on third until another quick caution waved on lap 80. Playing strategy, Ratcliff called Bell down pit road under the caution for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments to the Rheem Camry. With the majority of the leaders staying out, Bell restarted in 14th on lap 83. With his Rheem Camry dialed in following the stop, Bell picked up six spots in six laps and ended stage two in eighth on lap 90. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted the final stage in second on lap 98.
Following the restart, Bell would be a mainstay inside the top five, grabbing the lead once again on lap 120 and lead the next 26 circuits around the one-mile oval before slipping back to second on lap 146. Despite fighting a tight Camry during the run, Bell maintained his position in second until making a green-flag pit stop on lap 163. During the stop, the Rheem team changed four tires, added fuel and made one final adjustment to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell rejoined the field in ninth on lap 165. A late-race caution would ensue on lap 167 with Bell being scored in sixth. Following a nearly 10-minute red flag, Bell restarted the race in fourth with 27 laps remaining. With four fresh Goodyear tires and his Rheem Camry dialed in, Bell grabbed the lead once again from Cup Series Regular Brad Keselowski on lap 183 and never looked back, keeping the Cup Series Champion behind him the rest of the way and earning his third win of the 2018 season.
With the win, Bell jumped to second in the NXS point standings and leads the Playoff points with 18 marks to eight for his next-closest competitor.
With the win, Bell recorded his 11th top-five finish of the 2018 season.
Bell currently leads all NXS drivers this year with nine top-three finishes
The NXS returns to the track next weekend at Iowa Speedway for their second and final visit of the 2018 season next Saturday, July 28th . Coverage of the race begins at 5:00 PM ET live on NBCSN, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
How did you hold off Brad Keselowski?
“The better tires, they didn’t hurt us that’s for sure. 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.”
Did you ever dream while growing up that 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. 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 (director of Team & Support Service for TRD, U.S.A.), Tyler Gibbs (senior vice president and GM for TRD, U.S.A.), Pete Willoughby, Keith Kunz (team owner of Keith Kunz Motorsports). 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.”
Why did you give the checkered flag to the young fan?
“I hope it means a lot more to that kid than it is to me. You know, we get trophies, we get all sorts of trophies, so hopefully it means a lot to that kid.”
Was that fun racing Brad Keselowski at the end?
“Oh, it’s – I don’t know if it’s fun, but it’s stressful, that’s for sure. You know, he (Brad Keselowski) on tires there, he didn’t have left sides and we had four, so that was a big advantage for me and I was able to get a really good launch on the restart, so, you know, that was really the key there. I think he had a little bit better car than us, but pretty much all through practice we were really equal, so this place has been really good to me in the past, you know? I’ve never been much for a flat track, let it roll, easy in, easy off-type of deal, but this place has been really good to me.”
Would you have thought you’d have three Xfinity Series wins at this point before the year started?
“Honestly, I would have said I’d better have three wins, you know? It’s a – whenever you come to here, you step in this equipment at Joe Gibbs Racing, you’re expected to win. Pressure’s on for you to deliver and thankfully I’ve been able to deliver at least some of the time.”
How satisfying is this win?
“It’s great, man. To be able to run with the guys like running with Kyle (Busch) last week and then now (Brad) Keselowski, it’s, you know, you – at one point – 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.”