Christopher Bell held off Brad Keselowski and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ryan Preece to win Saturday’s Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, scoring his third XFINITY Series win for 2018 and fourth career win overall. Bell, who started second, led 93 of the 200 scheduled laps and crossed the line .416 seconds ahead of Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford.
John Hunter Nemechek finished fourth and Matt Tifft took fifth to round out the top-five. Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer, and Austin Dillon rounded out the sixth through 10th positions.
“You hope to race those guys at one point, so I’m thankful that I get the opportunity here in the Xfinity Series to race with them and proud that I’m able to compete with them, let alone beat them,” Bell said.
The win is Bell’s second straight, both wins coming ahead of Cup champions as Bell also defeated series regular Daniel Hemric and a dominant Kyle Busch at Kentucky a week ago.
The win makes Bell the winningest XFINITY Series regular in 2018 after 18 events, with Allgaier (two wins), Tyler Reddick (one win), and Spencer Gallagher (one win) being the only other regulars to win this season. Preece, despite having one win this season (Bristol) is only competing part-time this season. Bell still remains second in points to Hemric, who despite remaining winless in 2018 leads the standings by six points over Bell by virtue of finishing 11th Saturday.
Bell’s win over Keselowski also reignited the discussion of whether or not Cup regulars should race in the XFINITY Series. His victory was seen as a win for the up-and-comers of the sport with Bell saying that he believes that Cup drivers should be allowed in the division so he could race against the best drivers in NASCAR.
Bell also spoke highly of his Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, pointing out the expectation to win with the team.
“Whenever you come to here, you step in this equipment at Joe Gibbs Racing, you’re expected to win,” he said. “Pressure’s on for you to deliver and thankfully I’ve been able to deliver, at least some of the time. They’ve won before me, they’re going to win after me. It’s my job to make sure they win with me.”
The XFINITY Series stops next at Iowa Speedway, where Allgaier won back in June, leading 182 laps on the way to victory. Preece scored his first career win in the event a year ago for JGR, whose Toyotas have won three times at the speedway.
The U.S. Cellular 250 airs Saturday, July 28, at 4 p.m. on NBCSN.