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Bell Sweeps Richmond; Advances in Xfinity Playoffs

Bell Sweeps Richmond; Advances in Xfinity Playoffs

Bell Sweeps Richmond; Advances in Xfinity Playoffs

RACE: Go Bowling 250
TRACK: Richmond Raceway
START: 1st
LAPS: 250/250

With the win, Bell ties Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle for the most wins by a driver in their Rookie Season.

Bell Sweeps Richmond; Advances in Xfinity Playoffsy

The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) took to the track on Friday night at Richmond Raceway for the first race of the 2018 Playoffs. Looking to kick off the seven-race stretch on a high note, Christopher Bell and his Rheem team went out on Friday afternoon and earned their fourth pole of the season, running a time of 22.691 seconds around the D-shaped oval. With his Rheem Camry dialed in for the final segment, Bell grabbed the lead with 13 laps remaining in the race and never looked back, going on to earn his fifth win of the 2018 season and advance to the next round of the 2018 Playoffs.

Following the drop of the green flag, Bell lead the first eight circuits around the historic track before slipping to third on lap nine. With his Rheem Camry coming to him on the long run, Bell worked his way back up second by lap 25 and maintained his position until the caution flag waved on lap 75, signaling the end of stage one. Under the caution, crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to the Rheem Camry. Following a lightning-quick stop by his Rheem team, Bell picked up one spot on pit road and restarted the second stage in first on lap 85.

Following the restart, the second stage would go green the entire run, with Bell slipping to second on lap 125 after battling a tight Rheem Camry to start the stage. Despite the tight condition, Bell maintained his positon and ended stage two in second on lap 150. Following another round of pit stops under the caution, Bell restarted the final stage in second on lap 158.

Following the restart, Bell maintained his position inside the top five, being scored in third when the fourth caution of the afternoon waved on lap 219. With one last opportunity to work on their Camry, Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and one final adjustment to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted in third on lap 225. A quick caution would ensure two laps later with Bell being scored in second. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in second with 14 laps remaining in the race and grabbed the lead on the following lap. Stretching his lead, Bell went on to lead the remaining 13 laps of the race, earning his fifth victory of the 2018 season and transferring into the second round of the 2018 playoffs.

With the win, Bell ties Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle for the most wins by a driver in their Rookie Season.

After earning his fourth pole award of the 2018 season, Bell went on to lead 67 laps en route to the victory.

Bell and his Rheem team will hit the track once again next weekend as the NXS pays a visit to the newest track on the circuit, The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coverage of the race begins at 3:00 PM ET on Saturday, September 29th live on NBCSN, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.

How does it feel to advance in the Xfinity Series playoffs?
“I’ll tell you what buddy, that’s pretty cool. 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.”

What kind of a statement does it make to come out and win the first race of the Xfinity playoffs?
“That’s just really cool man. To be able to come out here and to win on a restart like that is really special. Just really proud of Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief). He’s done such an excellent job of taking care of me. I don’t have a ton of experience in the world and he does such a good job of making sure I've got what I need in the race. Each pit stop we kept getting closer and closer. We weren’t the best car, that’s for sure. On the long run those guys would just drive away from me. He kind of knew what we needed for a 10 to 15 lap run there at the end and gave me what I needed. The pit crew did an awesome job keeping me out front. Got to restart on the front row and that was key.”

What enabled you to get by Matt Tifft and take the lead in the final restart?
“Just a couple restarts and a couple practice attempts. I restarted on the top a couple of times and kind of knew what I needed to do. Luckily, I got to start in the middle of the race track instead of the top of the race track and that really helped. I don’t know if the 2 (Matt Tifft) car was getting pressure to the inside or not but I took the lead leaving (turn) two.”

What was the difference in your Camry at the end of the race to get you out to the front?
“It was all track position. Track position and then it was just a short run. If it was a long run at the end I don’t know if we had the best long run car, but whenever we came in we had really good pit stops so was able to get out and get position and then restarting on the front row there and was able to take the lead.”

How big is this not to have to worry about where you finish at the new road course at Charlotte next weekend?
“Now we can go to the Roval and race to win so I'm excited about that. We don’t have to go to the Roval and try to finish the race because we’re going to try and win that sucker.”

What does it mean to win this race and automatically transfer to the next round?
“To me it feels better to know that I don’t have to worry about getting crashed or crashing so I can be aggressive and go race and try to win so that’s the biggest thing for me. Me and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) sat down a couple weeks ago and kind of went over our little Playoff schedule  here and there are race tracks on here that are circled that we can win at -- and for the most part, that’s all of them, but Richmond is definitely one of them that we had highlighted that we should be really good at and we should be able to contend for a win. To be able to win two here is really special and the thing about winning the first race is you have the target on your back. Everyone is working to get better to beat you and that really showed. We weren’t the dominant car by any means, but Jason did an excellent job of tuning on that thing and getting it right at the right time and that was kind of the story of our day. Even qualifying, I’m not going to say a mid-pack car, but we were fifth to 10th and each round of qualifying until that last round and he put the magic setup on it and we went out there and got the pole. Kind of the same deal, I was right there in the hunt and would fall back a little bit and when it mattered, he put the tune-up on it.”

Is there anything you need to execute better for the upcoming rounds?
“We definitely weren’t as fast as what we needed to be tonight and that’s really two weeks in a row – Vegas and here – where we haven’t been fast enough to compete for the lead all race long, but at the same point, we still won the race and that’s because my team executed. Not just me, but my pit crew did a good job of maintaining our track position. We gained a couple spots over the course of the night and Jason tuned on it and made sure we weren’t setup for the long run when we only had 20 laps left and he made it good at the end. We have to get faster, but that’s track dependent and we’ve got a lot of really good race tracks that we’re fast at coming up.”

Is there something special to win a race that Dale Earnhardt Jr. competed in and led laps in?
“Yeah, it’s cool. I got to race with him last year in this race and I raced alongside of him and I think we battled a little bit throughout the course of the race – it wasn’t for the lead. It’s cool, but at the same time whenever you strap the helmet on, you don’t realize who’s in the race car. They just become cars and drivers. Whenever you’re out there racing, you don’t think about who you’re racing against.” 

How gratifying is it to get this win and complete the sweep at Richmond this season?
“It’s really cool and to be able to win two races here is really special and to be able to pull into victory lane there with all the fans there, that was really cool and to be the first one to do it is really something that you don’t get to be in the history books very often. I’m the first guy to pull into Richmond victory lane now or the new one anyway. It’s really good to be able to win and racing is such a mental sport, I put a high percentage – probably 70 or 80 percent mental and confidence is everything. Winning gets you confidence and now unfortunately we have to go to a road course that might shake it a little bit. I think we’re in a really good spot.”