Christopher Bell wins at Phoenix, earns shot at Xfinity title

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Christopher Bell wins at Phoenix, earns shot at Xfinity title
Jim Utter
By: Jim Utter
Nov 10, 2018, 10:59 PM

Christopher Bell did exactly what he needed to do – he won his way into the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race.

Starting from the rear of the field after inspection failures prevented him from qualifying, Bell took the lead for the first time on Lap 108 of 200 and held off Daniel Hemric to win Saturday’s Whelen 200 at Phoenix.

“Let’ go get ourselves a championship,” Bell said over his team radio as he took the checkered flag.

After a dismal semifinal round in the playoffs, a win was the only thing that would ensure Bell a chance to compete for the series championship next weekend at Homestead, Fla., and he delivered.

"Man, that's never sounded sweeter in my life," Bell said after being told he would advance to the Championship 4. "After Kansas and Texas, I just kind of accepted that we weren't going to get there.

"We came here with a 'Let's have fun' attitude. We didn't really make our way up front very fast. I kind of got stalled out once I got into the Top 15. I knew this thing was really fast because yesterday in practice it was really good. My pit crew did an outstanding job.
 
"We're going to Homestead, baby! I'm so thankful for my team. Without them, they brought probably our best car we've had all year here this weekend. It's a pleasure to drive them. A race car driver is only as good as his race cars."
 

The win is Bell’s seventh of the season, a rookie record he had already set earlier in the year. He has eight series win in his career.

Matt Tifft finished third, Austin Cindric as fourth and Ryan Preece completed the top-five.

Joining Bell in the Championship 4 at Homestead competing for the series title are Cole Custer (who won last weekend at Texas), Hemric and Tyler Reddick.

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Stage 3

Bell moved into the lead for the first time in the race on Lap 108 of 200 as John Hunter Nemechek dropped back into second.

With 70 laps to go, Bell had moved out to a more than 2.7-second lead over Hemric and Justin Allgaier running in third.

On Lap 137, Tyler Hill wrecked on the backstretch to bring out a caution. All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit and Bell was the first off pit road, followed by Hemric and Tifft. The race returned to green on Lap 143.

Ty Majeski wrecked on Lap 145 after contact with Shane Lee to bring out another caution and Nemechek got into the right-front of Allgaier in the same incident. The race returned to green on Lap 150.

On Lap 155, a caution was displayed after Tommy Joe Martins’ No. 8 Chevrolet began pouring smoke and stopped on the track. The race returned to green with 38 laps remaining and Bell still out front.

After complaining of losing his brakes, a fire broke out in the right-front wheel-well of Allgaier’s No 7 Chevrolet on Lap 181. He began to drop back in the field, which would knock the regular season champion out of further title contention.

With 10 to go, Bell held a more than 1.6-second lead over Hemric.

Stage 2

Allgaier again took home the stage victory, this time over Nemechek, who was involved in a close battle with Cindric at the finish.

Cindric ended up third, Bell was fourth and Hemric completed the top-five.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, Cindric was the first off pit road and assumed the lead on the restart on Lap 54.

During pit stops, Tifft was penalized for speeding on pit road and Jones received an uncontrolled tire penalty.

Allgaier quickly made his way around Cindric on the restart to retake the lead as Nemechek moved into second.

With 20 laps remaining in the second stage, Allgaier held just over a 1-second lead on Nemechek, with Cindric third and Bell fourth.

Bell passed Cindric for third with 13 laps remaining.

With five races left in the second stage, Allgaier had built up more than a 3-second lead over Nemechek.

Stage 1

Allgaier held off Cindric to take the Stage 1 win victory.

Hemric finished third, Nemechek was fourth and Custer completed the top-five.

Before the first lap of the race was completed, Akinori Ogata wrecked which brought out a caution. On the restart, Nemechek, the pole-winner, remained in the lead.

On Lap 21, Allgaier made his way around Nemechek and into the lead for the first time.

With 20 to go in the first stage, Allgaier held a small advantage over Nemechek. They were followed by Cindric, Preece and Custer.

With 15 laps left in the opening stage, Allgaier had moved out to a more than 1.5-second lead over Nemechek. Bell, who started in the rear of the field because he failed to pass inspection before qualifying was completed, had made his way up to 11th.

On Lap 36, Bell got around Sadler and moved into the Top-10 for the first time in the race. Shortly afterward, Sadler developed a bad right-front tire rub.

Replays showed Sadler appeared to get damage from a run-in with Chad Finchum earlier in the stage.

Cla # Driver 4506 Laps Time Laps Led
1 20 United States Christopher Bell  Toyota 200   94
2 21 United States Daniel Hemric  Chevrolet 200 1.887 1
3 2 United States Matt Tifft  Chevrolet 200 3.765  
4 22 United States Austin Cindric  Ford 200 4.204 3
5 18 United States Ryan Preece  Toyota 200 8.907  
6 9 United States Tyler Reddick  Chevrolet 200 10.815  
7 19 United States Brandon Jones  Toyota 200 11.366  
8 00 United States Cole Custer  Ford 200 13.692  
9 42 United States John Hunter Nemechek  Chevrolet 200 16.297 33
10 23 United States Spencer Gallagher  Chevrolet 200 17.799  
11 1 United States Elliott Sadler  Chevrolet 200 18.251  
12 16 United States Ryan Reed  Ford 200 20.890  
13 11 United States Ryan Truex  Chevrolet 200 21.385  
14 3 United States Shane Lee  Chevrolet 200 22.503  
15 4 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 200 24.246  
16 5 United States Michael Annett  Chevrolet 200 24.998  
17 51 United States Jeremy Clements  Chevrolet 200 28.207  
18 60 United States Ty Majeski  Ford 199 1 lap  
19 39 United States Ryan Sieg  Chevrolet 199 1 lap  
20 36 Canada Alex Labbé  Chevrolet 199 1 lap  
21 38 United States J.J. Yeley  Chevrolet 199 1 lap  
22 35 United States Joey Gase  Chevrolet 199 1 lap  
23 01 United States B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet 199 1 lap  
24 7 United States Justin Allgaier  Chevrolet 199 1 lap 69
25 90 Donald Theetge  Chevrolet 197 3 laps  
26   United States Garrett Smithley  Chevrolet 197 3 laps  
27 52 United States David Starr  Chevrolet 197 3 laps  
28 76 United States Spencer Boyd  Chevrolet 197 3 laps  
29 15 United States Quin Houff  Chevrolet 196 4 laps  
30 55 Bayley Currey  Toyota 193 7 laps  
31 13 Tyler Hill  Toyota 185 15 laps  
32 74 United States Mike Harmon  Chevrolet 181 19 laps  
33 66 Akinori Ogata  Toyota 179 21 laps  
34 45 United States Josh Bilicki  Toyota 158 42 laps  
35 8 United States Tommy Joe Martins  Chevrolet 151 49 laps  
36 78 United States Vinnie Miller  Chevrolet 144 56 laps  
37 40 United States Chad Finchum  Toyota 143 57 laps  
38 99 United States Stephen Leicht  Chevrolet 27 173 laps  
39 89 United States Morgan Shepherd  Chevrolet 22 178 laps  
40 93 United States Jeff Green  Chevrolet 18 182 laps  
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About this article

Series NASCAR XFINITY
Event Phoenix II
Drivers Christopher Bell
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Author Jim Utter
Article type Race report