After coming up short in last year’s Championship 4 race, Christopher Bell and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team were back for another chance at the Xfinity Series championship. This would be Bell’s last opportunity for the foreseeable future as he goes Cup Series racing next year for Leavine Family Racing. Already being an emotional week for the Oklahoma native, Bell had hopes of bringing home a championship to the No. 20 team.
Bell qualified seventh at Homestead-Miami Speedway and had a great car early on, finishing 12th in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2. He even had the lead multiple times throughout the race and at one point he led 23 laps out front. However, the last time we would see Bell at the front was right before green flag pit stops. A miscommunication call between the driver and spotter had Bell staying out instead of coming in to pit road.
Even with a fast car, Bell was unable to catch the other two championship drivers. There were no late-race cautions and the Oklahoma native had to settle for a disappointing fifth-place finish and third in the championship after a strong season with eight wins.
“Yeah, it was just a miscommunication,” Bell said describing the incident. “I don’t know if my spotter didn’t get told what our cue word was, but I told, got the cue word to pit, and then all of a sudden, I started pitting and he said, not now, not now. But that didn’t matter whenever you get beat by 17 seconds. I’m glad that didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the race.”
Even after the incident, Bell was making up ground but was just too far back in order to make anything happen.
“Well, that second to last run, I don’t know if I just did a better job blocking or what, but we definitely seemed to maintain a little bit better, and then whenever we pitted, I didn’t know ‑‑ you don’t know how many laps that we pitted earlier than the other two guys, but I was pretty happy whenever I drove by them because I think we only had 30‑something laps to go at that point, and my car had been okay for that distance.”
Bell ends his full-time Xfinity Series campaign with 16 wins, 41 top-fives and 46 top-10 finishes along with 12 poles.
Justin Allgaier, on the other hand, had a more disappointing race. The eventful weekend started out with practice when the No. 52 of David Starr came up when he was not clear and made slight contact with Allgaier off Turn 1. Rain showers came and washed out the practices for the rest of the day on Friday. Coming back on Saturday afternoon for qualifying, Allgaier struggled with a 16th place starting effort.
While it wasn’t a pretty Stage 1, Allgaier managed a third place for the second stage. However, after Stage 2, it was like you didn’t see the No. 7 team for the rest of the race. A major moment came late in the final stage, where Allgaier almost spun coming down to pit road. He held onto the car and made it to pit road for adjustments.
Despite those adjustments, the car continued to struggle in the remaining laps. With no late-race cautions, Allgaier finished 14th, one lap down and fourth of the four Championship 4 drivers.
“Yeah, I mean, that was probably the hardest one,” Allgaier said. “Chase sitting here probably got in the wall less than we did, and the caution came out, and it didn’t for us. So I was pretty bummed in that. But on the flip side of it, once this didn’t come out, there was no reason to try to cause a caution. We weren’t fast enough really to be in that position anyway and it ‑‑ at the end of the day, I probably could have done something to benefit ourselves there.”
“The unfortunate part is you’ve got a long way to go to get back to pit road at a slow speed and that ended up putting us two laps down, which we were able to drive our way back to one lap down, but the time that we lost just trying to get back to pit road really, really affected the outcome of where we finished tonight, which didn’t matter, but just for going into the off‑season you’d rather have a better finish than where we finished, 14th, 13th, 15th, something like that. Disappointing.”
Allgaier ends the 2019 Xfinity Series season with one win, 16 top fives and 24 top-10 finishes.
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