Christopher Bell fends off teammate to win Xfinity race at Richmond

Christopher Bell fends off teammate to win Xfinity race at Richmond
Nick DeGroot
By: Nick DeGroot
Apr 21, 2018, 1:31 AM

Christopher Bell headed a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 finish at Richmond Raceway, beating rookie teammate Noah Gragson to the line by four tenths of a second.

For Bell, it was his second NXS victory in his 16th career start. "That was pretty special there buddy," Bell said, having led 120 of 250 laps. "Had to work for it. My teammate was really good. I knew from practice both of our cars were really strong."

Noah Gragson finished second in his Xfinity debut, followed by Elliott Sadler, who won the Dash 4 Cash bonus. 

"I really wanted to win at this track," Sadler said. "It would mean a lot for me, but we did win the Dash 4 Cash. To win a $100,000 is great. This Camaro was fast all night. It was fun leading at my home track, just came up a little short."

Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric rounded out the top-five. Behind them, pole-sitter Cole Custer, Ryan Truex, Jeremy Clements, Ryan Reed, and Brandon Jones rounded out the top-ten.

Stage 1

Custer led the field to the green flag from pole position, maintaining control of the race until a Lap 18 caution for David Starr slow on the track.

The race resumed seven laps later and Bell quickly made his presence known, surging into second place. After working under Custer for several laps, Bell finally completed the pass for the top spot on Lap 44.

Custer then fell back to fourth before a caution with just 12 laps to go in the stage when Josh Bilicki bounced off the wall. A handful of cars pitted while the majority of the field stayed out for what would be a six-lap shootout.

On the restart, Dash 4 Cash contender Daniel Hemric got the jump on Bell and moved into the race lead, winning the opening stage of the race. Bell was second, Custer third, Jeb Burton fourth, Sadler fifth, Tifft sixth, Tyler Reddick seventh, Jones eighth, Nemechek ninth and Cindric tenth.

Stage 2

As the leaders pitted during the stage break, those who pitted during the previous yellow and assumed the top-five positions. At the front now was Nemechek, followed by Michael Annett and Noah Gragson.

On Lap 89, the race went back green with Nemechek in control. It took him half the stage, but Bell eventually made his way by the No. 42 and retook control of the race.

With 20 laps to go in the stage, the battle for the lead became a three-way fight between Bell, Sadler and Gragson. Sadler prevailed, taking the lead and the stage win for JR Motorsports.

In the final laps of the stage, Stage 1 winner Hemric cut a right front tire down and limped around the track, losing multiple laps. He went on to finish 29th.

Behind Sadler at the conclusion of the second stage, followed by Gragson, Tifft, Bell, Custer, Nemechek, Brandon Jones, Tyler Reddick, Cindric and Ryan Truex.

Although Sadler held the lead for the ensuing restart, it was Gragson that took control as the race went back green. The caution flag quickly returned though when another Dash 4 Cash driver found trouble. After Spencer Gallagher got into the wall, Justin Allgaier had to check up and as a result, got spun off the nose of Burton. He was able to continue.

The next restart with 80 laps to go would be the last and the caution would never return again.

Bell grabbed the lead, but he did not cruise to the checkered flag. Making his Xfinity debut, teammate Gragson got the back bumper of Bell with ten laps to go, but he was unable to complete the pass for the race lead.

"It's definitely a team effort," said Gragson. "Not racing here before in the Xfinity Series, I didn't know what to expect.

"Just so thankful for the opportunity."

Cla#DriverManufacturerLapsTimeLaps Led
1 20 united_states Christopher Bell  Toyota 250 - 120
2 18 united_states Noah Gragson  Toyota 250 0.423 10
3 1 united_states Elliott Sadler  Chevrolet 250 6.505 30
4 2 united_states Matt Tifft  Chevrolet 250 6.777  
5 22 united_states Austin Cindric  Ford 250 9.200  
6 00 united_states Cole Custer  Ford 250 13.972 43
7 11 united_states Ryan Truex  Chevrolet 250 16.513  
8 51 united_states Jeremy Clements  Chevrolet 250 17.525  
9 16 united_states Ryan Reed  Ford 250 17.995  
10 19 united_states Brandon Jones  Toyota 250 18.755  
11 9 united_states Tyler Reddick  Chevrolet 250 20.965  
12 3 united_states Jeb Burton  Chevrolet 250 21.000  
13 42 united_states John Hunter Nemechek  Chevrolet 250 24.279 36
14 7 united_states Justin Allgaier  Chevrolet 250 24.930  
15 38 united_states J.J. Yeley  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
16 36 canada Alex Labbé  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
17 23 united_states Spencer Gallagher  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
18 4 united_states Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
19 90 united_states Brandon Brown  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
20 5 united_states Michael Annett  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
21 39 united_states Ryan Sieg  Chevrolet 249 1 lap  
22 35 united_states Joey Gase  Chevrolet 248 2 laps  
23 8 united_states Tommy Joe Martins  Chevrolet 247 3 laps  
24 28 Tony Mrakovich  Ford 247 3 laps  
25 15 united_states Joe Nemechek  Chevrolet 247 3 laps  
26 60 united_states Chase Briscoe  Ford 246 4 laps  
27 0 united_states Garrett Smithley  Chevrolet 246 4 laps  
28 76 united_states Spencer Boyd  Chevrolet 246 4 laps  
29 21 united_states Daniel Hemric  Chevrolet 246 4 laps 11
30 24 united_states Kaz Grala  Ford 245 5 laps  
31 01 united_states Vinnie Miller  Chevrolet 244 6 laps  
32 78 united_states B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet 244 6 laps  
33 45 united_states Josh Bilicki  Toyota 244 6 laps  
34 40 united_states Chad Finchum  Toyota 238 12 laps  
35 52 united_states David Starr  Chevrolet 229 21 laps  
36 74 united_states Mike Harmon  Chevrolet 133 117 laps  
37 55 united_states Stephen Leicht  Toyota 128 122 laps  
38 66 united_states Timmy Hill  Dodge 107 143 laps  
39 89 united_states Morgan Shepherd  Chevrolet 32 218 laps  
40 93 united_states Jeff Green  Chevrolet 26 224 laps

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