RACE: The Bay Harbor 200
TRACK: Dover International Raceway
With the win, Bell ties Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle for the most wins by a driver in their Rookie Season.
Record-Breaking Win for Bell and the Rheem Team at Dover
The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) took to the track on Saturday afternoon at Dover International Speedway (Dover) for the last race in the Round of 12 of the 2018 NXS Playoffs. Looking to build momentum heading into the off week, Christopher Bell and his Rheem team went out on Saturday morning and earned the second starting position, running a time of 22.841 seconds around the “Monster Mile.” With his Rheem Camry dialed in from the start of the race, Bell led the entire first segment and never looked back, going on to earn his sixth win of the 2018 season, advancing to the next round of the 2018 playoffs, and becoming the winningest rookie in NXS history.
Following the drop of the green flag, Bell grabbed the lead on lap one and went on to lead the entire first stage in his Rheem Camry. Under the stage one caution, crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and a slight air-pressure adjustment to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted the second stage in third on lap 51.
Following the restart, the second stage would also go green for the entire run, with Bell maintaining his position in third for the first thirty laps of the stage. With his Rheem Camry coming to him on the long run, Bell moved into second by lap 83 and maintained his position, ending stage two in second on lap 90. Following another round of pit stops under the caution, Bell restarted the final stage in eighth on lap 96.
Wasting no time working his way towards the front following the restart, Bell started clicking off his competitors one-by-one, cracking the top five by lap 100, and taking over the race lead once again on lap 133. Continuing to pace the field, the third caution flag of the afternoon waved on lap 163 for debris. 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 second on lap 171. Another quick caution would ensue on lap 179 with Bell being scored as the race leader once again. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in first with 17 laps remaining and never looked back, going on to earn his sixth victory of the 2018 season in his Rheem Camry.
With the win, Bell breaks the NXS record for the most wins by a driver in their Rookie Season.
After starting second, Bell went on to lead 110 laps en-route to the victory.
With the win, Bell also breaks the record for the most top-five finishes by a rookie in their first NXS season.
Bell’s six wins in 2018 equals the most wins by a NXS regular in a season since 1999.
Bell and his Rheem team will have the week off before returning to the track in two weeks at Kansas Speedway. Coverage of the race begins at 3:00 PM ET on Saturday, October 20th live on NBCSN, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
What’s it mean to bypass Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch in wins in your rookie year?
“It’s the means the world. To be able to have the season we had, it’s been a career year for me. It’s all credit to everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and my crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Everyone that works at the shop to put these Camry’s together. We have really fast cars every time we go to the track. All of our partners deserve it. Today we had Rheem on the car, other weeks we’ve had Ruud and GameStop. Everyone that makes this happen, I am thankful to be a part of it and drive for them.”
How did your pit crew impact this race?
“We’re all in this together. I’ve sped down pit road before, I’ve butchered restarts and they don’t yell at me. It’s not my job to yell at them. They know and came back to rebound better than ever.”
Describe your run today
“Whenever you’re back in traffic, this track is so fast. The concrete, the tires. Everything is so fast and everyone is really fast for a while until the track rubbers up and gets greasy. It’s hard to do anything until the laps get put on the race track and it starts to widen up. This Rheem Camry was so fast on the long-run and especially when I could get the top going. It was really good.”
What was it about your car that made you so good up at the top?
“I would start tight on the stickers. Then I got more free and I would get loose on the bottom, so I could move up and still turn and get really good on exit to take the throttle down and get really good runs on the straightaway.”
Six wins this season – what does it mean to get that wins record your rookie year?
“It’s a credit to my team. As a race car driver, you’re only as good as your race car. Really fortunate to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing. My crew chief and team work their butts off and bring really face cars to these tracks. Makes my job easy.”
What does the momentum say about this next round in the playoffs?
“Racing is such a mental sport. Confidence is everything. I’m able to go to Kansas with confidence and I can run harder and feel better about that. We got a lot of confidence right now and everyone on this team is pumped.”
As being the only driver advanced, could you run your own pace today?
“I guess a little bit. The last two weeks the only things we’ve been racing for are the stage wins and the race wins. The rest of it doesn’t matter to us. I guess I am able to be a little more aggressive to win stages or races. At the same point, you don’t want to crash. To say I raced today any different than I raced any other day – probably not. We definitely put more emphasis on winning races and stages. Normally when you go in there, like today, when I was running stage two, it would have been content to ride in third and get stage points. Instead, I was able to get aggressive and try to win the stage. I didn’t but maybe a difference. For the most part, it’s the same mentality.”
What’s been the difference from when you began this season to now?
“Execution is the bottom line. It’s gotten a lot better. I don’t know – to say the race cars are better, we were good at the beginning of the year. To be honest, not having a bunch of Cup Series guys in there helps us. We’ve won races with the Cup guys in it. I think it’s all coming together. That’s really good. My race cars have been really fast. Thankful to be driving to for Joe Gibbs Racing with these fast cars. A race car driver is only as good as his race car. I’m sitting in one of the best race cars in the garage and I am really thankful.”
Is this your championship to lose?
“I don’t think it’s anyone’s championship to lose. It boils down to once race. If you look further into that, it boils down to the last pit stop. Do you execute on the last pit stop? Is your last restart good? Are your final 10 laps good? You have to have short-run speed at Homestead. It all boils down to one run to decide who the champion is. I don’t think anyone is a clear favorite and we won’t know that until about lap 100.”
What do you think you did in this round to separate yourself?
“We’re in really good shape right now. The bottom line is my race cars have been so fast. Every single week since day one. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, they will be fast. We went to Atlanta and were right there contending for the win. Kevin Harvick was a little bit better than us but it’s Kevin Harvick at Atlanta. Our cars have been so fast all year long. Now we’re just proving that. To able to win two of three this round is really cool. We’ve added to our bonus points going into the next round. It would be nice to win Kansas and be on offense again the entire next round. Kansas is a good race track for me and for Joe Gibbs Racing as well.”