Christopher Bell dominates on way to Atlanta Xfinity win

Christopher Bell didn’t have to wait long to pick up his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season.

Christopher Bell dominates on way to Atlanta Xfinity win
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Supra Rheem
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Supra Rheem
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Supra Rheem
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Jacob Companies
Jeffrey Earnhardt, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Supra Extreme Concepts/iK9
Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Pinnacle Financial Partners

Bell and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota were dominate from the start of Saturday’s Rinnai 250, winning both stages and holding off Cole Custer at the checkered flag to claim his first series win of 2019.

In his stellar seven-win season of a year ago, Bell didn’t pick up his first win until the eighth race of the season (at Richmond).

The win is the ninth of Bell’s Xfinity career.

"The top (lane) is just so good going through (Turns) 1 and 2. Even on the long run before the caution, I knew I was going to have to move up there to block (Reddick) at some point and I was just really struggling there," Bell said in Victory Lane.

"I'm just very fortunate to be able to drive this Supra. It's the first Supra win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and it means a lot to me to be the first driver in it. The Surpa's awesome - it looks good and it's fast."

Bell said he felt a little "sloppy" as a driver at times during the race.

"Running the yellow line is so hard and I would just struggle on the longer runs there," he said. "I was knew I was going to have to move up if we didn't get the last yellow. I was pretty tickled that yellow came out so we could put some tires on."

Justin Allgaier finished third, Brandon Jones was fourth and Tyler Reddick – the reigning series champion- completed the top-five. Jeffrey Earnhardt was sixth – a career-best finish.

With 50 laps remaining in the race, Bell maintained a more than 2-second lead over Reddick. Allgaier was another 2 seconds behind Reddick.

A round of green-flag pit stops began with 42 laps left with several drivers heading to pit road including Bell. During the stops, Reddick and Allgaier got off pit road ahead of Bell.

When the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 134, Bell had made his way back to the front and reclaimed the lead.

With 20 to go, Bell’s lead, which had grown to over 2 seconds over Reddick, was beginning to shrink.

On Lap 156, John Hunter Nemechek hit the wall to bring out the first caution of the race for an on-track incident. All of the lead-lap cars elected to pit for new tires.

Bell was the first off pit road followed by Earnhardt, Allgaier and Jones. Bell led the way on the restart with three laps to go.

Stage 2

Bell easily held off Custer to claim the second stage win in Saturday’s race.

Reddick recovered from a long pit stop to finish third, Jones was fourth and Earnhardt completed the top-five.

Following the break between the Stages 1 and 2, Bell was the first off pit road and reclaimed the race lead when Stage 2 went green on Lap 48.

With 30 laps left in the second stage, Jones had moved up to second followed by Custer, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Allgaier.

Bell built up a more than 3-second lead over Custer with 10 laps remaining in the second stage. They were followed by Jones, Earnhardt and Reddick.

With three laps to go Reddick powered into the third position.

Stage 1

Bell grabbed the lead on the first lap and led all 40 on his way to the Stage 1 victory over Custer.

Allgaier finished third, Reddick was fourth and Jones completed the top-five. The stage win is the first of the year for Bell.

Custer started from the pole since qualifying was rained out and the lineup was set by 2018 owner points but Bell quickly grabbed the lead on Lap 1.

With 25 laps still to go in the first stage, Bell continued to hold a sizable lead followed by Custer and Allgaier.

Bell moved out to a more than 2-second lead halfway over Custer halfway through the stage. They were followed by Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Nemechek.

With 12 laps to the end of the stage, Custer had cut Bell’s margin to under one second.

Bell held a slight advantage over Custer with five laps remaining in the stage. Allgaier was still in third, Reddick fourth and Jones was running fifth.

Stephen Leicht dropped to the rear at the start of the race due to unapproved adjustments. Chad Finchum also dropped back as a gesture of respect for the competition.

Cla # Driver Manufacturer Laps Time Laps Led
1 20 United States Christopher Bell  Toyota 163   142
2 00 United States Cole Custer  Ford 163 0.191 3
3 7 United States Justin Allgaier  Chevrolet 163 0.778  
4 19 United States Brandon Jones  Toyota 163 1.122 1
5 2 United States Tyler Reddick  Chevrolet 163 1.886 9
6 18 United States Jeffrey Earnhardt  Toyota 163 2.000  
7 8 United States Ryan Preece  Chevrolet 163 2.233  
8 11 United States Justin Haley  Chevrolet 163 3.057  
9 9 United States Noah Gragson  Chevrolet 163 3.384 9
10 22 United States Austin Cindric  Ford 163 3.701  
11 39 United States Ryan Sieg  Chevrolet 163 3.844  
12 1 United States Michael Annett  Chevrolet 163 3.958  
13 86 United States Brandon Brown  Chevrolet 163 10.857  
14 4 United States Ross Chastain  Chevrolet 163 17.593  
15 98 United States Chase Briscoe  Ford 162 1 lap  
16 08 United States Gray Gaulding  Chevrolet 162 1 lap  
17   United States Garrett Smithley  Chevrolet 162 1 lap  
18 51 United States Jeremy Clements  Chevrolet 162 1 lap  
19 90 Canada Alex Labbé  Chevrolet 162 1 lap  
20 23 United States John Hunter Nemechek  Chevrolet 162 1 lap  
21 36 United States Josh Williams  Chevrolet 161 2 laps  
22 17 Bayley Currey  Chevrolet 159 4 laps  
23 07 United States Ray Black Jr.  Chevrolet 159 4 laps  
24 15 United States B.J. McLeod  Chevrolet 159 4 laps  
25 01 United States Stephen Leicht  Chevrolet 159 4 laps  
26 42 United States Chad Finchum  Toyota 158 5 laps  
27 52 United States David Starr  Chevrolet 158 5 laps  
28 66 United States Timmy Hill  Toyota 157 6 laps  
29 35 United States Joey Gase  Toyota 156 7 laps  
30 5 United States Matt Mills  Chevrolet 154 9 laps  
31 99 United States Tommy Joe Martins  Toyota 152 11 laps  
32 78 United States Vinnie Miller  Chevrolet 94 68 laps  
33 74 United States Mike Harmon  Chevrolet 90 72 laps  
34 38 United States Josh Bilicki  Chevrolet 87 75 laps  
35 89 United States Morgan Shepherd  Chevrolet 45 117 laps  
36 93 United States Jeff Green  Chevrolet 42 120 laps  
37 13 John Jackson  Toyota 14 148 laps  
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Event Atlanta
Author Jim Utter