PHOENIX – Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 20 GameStop Just Cause 4 Toyota, had a dominant win in Saturday’s Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway to earn his spot in the Championship 4 in Miami.
“I guess the biggest thing for me is that I accepted that we might not be going to Homestead and knew that we would have really fast race cars for the last few races,” Bell said. “I just tried to execute and not beat myself. I just get to drive really fast race cars, so that’s why I’m able to win races. It was more so the team coming through than me this weekend. Our backs were against the wall, and they show up here with arguably one of our fastest race cars we’ve brought to the race track all year. That’s why we got the results we got here today.”
Bell came into ISM Raceway 34 points behind fourth place, which meant, barring disaster for the drivers in front of him, the 23-year-old would need a win to be a part of the Championship 4. To start the race, he was in the back due to failing inspection and not posting a lap during qualifying. But not only did Bell claim victory, he made a statement while doing it, grabbing the lead on lap 108 and never looking back.
Bell’s win meant one less spot was available for the final round via points. Elliott Sadler, in his final season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, was on the outside looking in after an 11th place finish on Saturday. His JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier, was the car to beat at one point in the race, but contact between him, teammate Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek caused major damage to the right front, and eventually his brakes gave out. Allgaier finished 24th, one lap down, and did not advance to Homestead.
Joining Bell in the Championship race is last week’s race winner Cole Custer, who finished eighth, as well as Daniel Hemric, the runner-up on Saturday, and Reddick, who finished sixth. Matt Tifft earned a third-place finish, but did not advance to the final round.
“I knew the way the stages played out early on, we were going to have to win,” said Tifft, driver of the No. 2 Go Green Chevrolet. “I thought we had a chance, but just with that last caution, the 20 really took off and I just got a little too tight there. So, valiant effort. Like I said before the race, we’re going to have to go down swinging and on offense, and we were. That’s all you can do.”
Tomorrow’s Can-Am 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series semifinal playoff race will begin at 12:30 p.m., local time. Grandstand seats are sold out, but fans can still get in on all the action with standing room only tickets that provide access into the all-new INfield at ISM Raceway. Tickets can be purchased online at ISMRaceway.com, by phone at 1-866-408-RACE (7223) or in person at the ISM Raceway ticket office.
About ISM Raceway
Since 1964, ISM Raceway has been the premier motorsports venue in the Southwest. As part of a $178 million modernization project, the track officially became ISM Raceway in January 2018 as a result of a naming rights partnership with ISM Connect, a pioneer in smart venue technology bringing the digital fan engagement experience to Phoenix. Phoenix hosts two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekends each year, beginning with the TicketGuardian 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend on March 9, 10 and 11. The schedule is anchored by the Opening Weekend, on Nov. 9, 10 and 11, with the Can-Am 500, the semifinal race in NASCAR’s Playoffs after which the field is reduced to the final four championship contenders. For more information, visit www.ISMRaceway.com.