Toyota NXS Kansas Post-Race Recap

by Official Release On Sat, Oct. 21, 2017

Toyota Post-Race Recap
Kansas Speedway
Race 30 of 33 – 300 miles, 200 laps
October 21, 2017


2nd, Tyler Reddick*
3rd, Ryan Blaney*
4th, William Byron*#
5th, Justin Allgaier*#
20th, J.J. YELEY
*non-Toyota driver
#contender in NXS Playoffs


1st, Justin Allgaier* 3,066 points*
5th, MATT TIFFT 3,033 points
14th, JJ YELEY 535 points
*non-Toyota driver
**unofficial point standings

· Camry driver Christopher Bell captured his first-career NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) victory at Kansas Speedway in only his fifth-series start.
· Bell becomes the 15th driver to earn an NXS win in a Toyota Camry since 2007.
· Bell led four (of 200 laps) while teammate Erik Jones (15th) led a race-high 186 in addition to winning both stages in Saturday’s race.
· Fellow Camry driver Matt Tifft (eighth) earned his fifth consecutive top-10 finish as he is currently ranked fifth in the Playoff standings, five points behind the fourth transfer spot.

CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 18 JBL Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to claim your first XFINITY victory?
“It’s my first XFINITY win, I’m sorry that Erik (Jones) couldn’t finish the race, but I’m just stoked. This thing was just awesome – this JBL Toyota Camry was absolutely outstanding and I’m really thankful to be a part of this Joe Gibbs Racing foundation. It’s a dream to be here and to be able to win in the XFINITY Series. It’s something that I dreamed of as a kid and I’m just really excited about that.”

Were you surprised you were able to close on the lead in the closing laps?
“I ran him (Erik Jones) down from however far back I was and I got there and its always tough to make the pass because you get up there and the air gets disturbed and you don’t have the grip that you have by yourself. Just really thankful to be here and bummed at the way it finished, but happy it held on. I was getting tire smoke in the cab those last couple laps and I was worried that we weren’t going to make it.”

What happened between yourself and Erik Jones?
“We’re all riding around on the top there and our tires are really old and worn out and everybody is sliding around and I got a big run off of two. I tried to drive in really deep into turn three and clear him and get back to the top, but I hate that we didn’t get to race it out and he didn’t get to finish, but it’s my first XFINITY win and it’s something I’m really proud of and really proud of all these guys who have given me this JBL Camry.”

How special is this victory?
“It’s a dream come true to be able to win in the XFINITY Series. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing is just something that I didn’t even think was a possibility as a kid growing up and I’m really thankful that Toyota and Toyota Racing Development stayed with me throughout the years and I was able to get them their first USAC National Midget Championship and from there they’ve had faith in me, even last year when I wasn’t running very good, they stayed with me another year and I’m just really thankful that they believe in me enough to give me this opportunity.”

What will you say to Erik Jones?
“I’m going to apologize and it sucks that we couldn’t race it out or that he didn’t finish the race. I don’t know man, I cleared him there. We were both on old tires and we were both sliding around.”

What did you hear in the closing laps?
“I didn’t know if I was going to have a tire going down or not, after I got into the wall there, smoke filled the car and just trying to ride around and not run too hard, just praying that tire would hold on and it did.”

Did you believe you were strong enough to win the race?
“I never really thought that I was going to be able to chase the 20 (Erik Jones) or the 22 (Ryan Blaney) down, but I was doing everything I could to hold off the 42 (Tyler Reddick), but kind of all day long and even in practice, we knew the long run was our strong suit. I didn’t think winning was a possibility and I didn’t think second was a possibility and then all of the sudden I started gaining on those guys and whenever I got there I was kind of blown away.”

Has this been the biggest win of your career and is it bigger than the Chili Bowl?
“It really has, for the amount of races that I’ve ran and won, this has been the best year of my career. For me personally, the Chili Bowl will always be my number one because I grew up in Oklahoma and that’s what racing meant for me and for my career, there is no question that this is the biggest win of my career so far.”

When did you figure out you would be good in the final laps?
“I actually probably figured it out around lap 120, kind of the end of that fuel run before the yellow. All day long, the top kept moving up and moving up, but we weren’t quite to the Homestead line, which is what I call it and that’s right on the wall. Up to that point, I wasn’t fast enough and they would drive away from me and once we got to the Homestead line and the groove moved up and got all the way to the wall, I found my little air cushion there and I could just start accelerating really hard out of the corner and start to drive in deeper and on the second-to –last run I told Eric (Phillips) that I was just a little too free and he made the right call and I wasn’t great to fire off on the last run, but it paid dividends.”

How much experience have you had racing against Erik Jones?
“Really we haven’t raced against each other that much or maybe we’ve been in the same race, but we haven’t been around each other on the race track. The one other time that I can relate racing against him would be at Winchester for the Winchester 400 and me and Erik were one-two all day long and really me and him were the class of the field. I ended up getting into the wall with 30 or 40 to go and let him win the race. I guess it’s kind of ironic how that works out, but we haven’t really raced around each other too much and just from watching him, he’s one of the greats coming up.”

ERIC PHILLIPS, crew chief, No. 18 JBL Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How nervous were you in the closing laps?
“Pretty nervous, everyone was close on fuel there so you knew some of the guys there were trying to manage their fuel and we raced so hard there with the 42 there for so long that we were just trying to get away. With old tires here up against the wall you have to concentrate and make sure you don’t get the thing up in the fence. We had pretty decent points to try to get to Homestead for the owner’s championship and that was a major goal so he didn’t want to go up there and fence the thing and wanted to keep going. We finally got away from the 42 and then there was the 22 and we got around him and then we thought, ‘Alright, let’s save some gas.’ Then I looked up and realized we were a second faster than the 20 at that point and I looked at my engineers and we talked about fuel one more time and we were right on our number so it was for the first win and let’s go for it. Christopher (Bell) did an awesome job taking care of the race car all day and being there at the end and that’s the most important part.”

How high do you rank Christopher compared to other young drivers?
“Up there pretty far I think, I think Steve (DeSouza) and the guys at JGR asked me earlier about him and I was still at KBM when Christopher started coming around and running races. I would say this about KB (Kyle Busch), KB doesn’t get enough credit for his feel in a race car, everybody just thinks he’s fast. The information he gives me is really good and helps the crew make better decisions and Christopher for no more experience than he has, is really good – his information is as good as any young kid I’ve worked with in my career and I’ve seen a few. His information, and that’s what led us down the path with our race car, we knew we wanted to be good on the long run from practice. We ran more laps yesterday in practice than anybody and didn’t have a rookie set of tires – everybody thought we did and we didn’t. We put a lot in the race car knowing that this race typically goes green a lot and we felt that was probably going to be our best advantage. It’s going to be hard to beat (Ryan) Blaney and Erik Jones, those guys are really fast and the cars are really good, but I knew if we got our car good on the long run that we’d have a good shot at a good finish.”

STEVE DeSOUZA, executive vice president of XFINITY and development, Joe Gibbs Racing
What does this win mean to Joe Gibbs Racing as an organization?
“I think he demonstrated that today obviously by getting first place, but when I think about him for a second here, that’s his fifth XFINITY race and only his second mile-and-a-half race in these types of cars and that was pretty special I thought. I know he was a little bit nervous this weekend trying to feel out the cars and confidence came and performance came. Eric (Phillips, crew chief) did an awesome job with this whole group and I know for Joe Gibbs Racing, obviously we’re excited about the balance of this year as he’ll be in the car and then next year with Toyota, TRD and David Wilson (TRD president) and everybody at TRD and the support that they’ve given him and just really watching him come up through the ranks. He’s earned this opportunity, taken full advantage of it and really excited to have JBL on our car this weekend for the very first time so I’m excited for Toyota, for Joe Gibbs Racing, for all of our group – Eric did a great job again. I was pretty nervous about the fuel and I heard them talking about it and I was thinking, ‘Oh gosh.’ But they weren’t checking up so I knew they were going for it. Congratulations to the guys and I look forward to a long career with you.”

How difficult is it to watch both of your cars battle that hard in the final laps?
“For sure it is, it’s kind of heartbreaking when you see it and that was just good, hard racing and I was kind of surprised and I’m sure Erik (Jones) was more surprised at the closing rate he had when Christopher slid up there, but that’s just part of racing and I thought maybe he was going to try to cut down and go to the inside there. That’s a tough one there when you see two guys racing their guts out all day long and it’s your two cars, that’s probably the worst case scenario for us, but it’s also the pleasure of seeing the young guys and how hard they race and sometimes those things are going to happen – that’s racing, that’s competition and that’s the sport we’re in. We’ll lift up the guys that didn’t have a great day and we’ll go back at it again with them and today we’re celebrating Christopher’s first win.”

MATT TIFFT, No. 19 Surface / Fanatics Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 8th
Another top-10 finish for you and the team, talk about your race.
“It was eventful. We struggled yesterday in race trim and we tried a bunch of changes overnight to try to fix all of our issues. The problem was we kept on going just back and forth between tight and loose. We never really found a happy medium between the two of them. We kind of started off the race that same way. I started off okay but then I got tighter and tighter and tighter. By the end of that first round we made a lot of headway in the first part of it, but I don’t know if we might have been a little bit too high on air pressures or what but it just gave up a lot. We probably over adjusted and went way too far to the loose side and then that third run we were pretty decent and then the last restart there, I got an okay restart getting through the gears, but then I don’t know, I think it our line just didn’t go great through one and two. It just kind of rolled us back to where we got freight trained a little bit. We worked our way back up to where we were, which was eight, which was good. We weren’t able to capitalize on stage points and we had a top ten finish out of it which is good. I think we’re five points behind the cut line. I know for the next few guys up there, we finished fourth out of the Playoff cars, but we didn’t do very well with the stage points so that’s the next big thing for Texas is to get the stage points back up for sure.”

ERIK JONES, No. 20 Reser’s American Classic Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 15th
What did you think of the move Christopher Bell made to take the lead?
“Well, I mean it’s not dirt racing, you know. He’s not clear. I can’t just stop on the top. I mean he was – I didn’t expect him just to drive in on the bottom so far, he wouldn’t be able to hold his lane. It’s unfortunate. The Reser’s Camry was really good and I thought we were going to race for the win and unfortunately it wasn’t much of a race. It was more of a wreck. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll just have to move on. That’s the first race in a while we’ve had a good XFINITY car and you know I was just thinking we were going to have a good shot there to win, but it is what it is. It’s going to happen.”

Describe those last few laps of the race.
“Well we were getting run down by the 18 (Christopher Bell) and I was thinking you know we were going to be kind of racing each other for it and it was going to be close, but it wasn’t much of a race. It was more of just we wrecked and then he went on to win, so it is what it is. We had a good car and unfortunately it just didn’t work out. You know that’s racing. It’s not always going to go your way and you know it definitely didn’t go our way today. We just have to come back, I believe Texas is our next one of these, so come back and do it a little bit better.”

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