HAMPTON, Ga. (Feb. 24, 2018) – Rookie Christopher Bell put down the fastest lap in Xfinity Series qualifying for the Rinnai 250 Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leap-frogging Joey Logano for the pole at the last minute.
Bell, who won the Camping World Truck Series race at AMS last year, went around in 30.600 seconds with a speed of 181.176 mph. Logano, still in search of his first win in any series at Atlanta, was just 0.030 slower.
It was Bell’s second career Xfinity Series pole. His first was at another 1.5-mile track, Kansas.
“I love the mile-and-a-half tracks, especially Atlanta,” Bell said. “It’s a really old surface so it makes it a ton of fun to drive on.
“I think we’ve got a shot at it, but qualifying is a totally different deal than racing. The good thing for us is all we did was long runs in practice yesterday so we have a good idea of where we stack up on the long run.”
John Hunter Nemechek was quickest in Round 2 of the knockout qualifying and third in Round 3. Nemechek and Cole Custer are on the second row.
Kevin Harvick, who won three straight Xfinity Series races at Atlanta from 2013-15, qualified fifth and Daniel Hemric was sixth.
Atlanta native Brandon Jones was seventh. Kyle Benjamin, Austin Cindric and Elliott Sadler round out the top 10.
Bell was fastest in Friday’s practice and speeds were way up Saturday morning with the 1.54-mile track at its coolest.
“It’s going to be tough, racing Logano, Harvick and all the guys,” Bell said. “It’s a tall order, but I’ve got the car to do it.”
The 23-year-old thought winning last year’s truck race at AMS would help.
“I think (it will) as far as how to run the lines and stuff like that with the lower downforce that the grip is substantially less,” Bell said. “The top is little better in these cars than in the trucks but tire wear, that’s another story.”
Two-time defending Atlanta Xfinity Series winner Kyle Busch isn’t running in today’s Rinnai 250 sticking to the Cup and Truck series races for the weekend, and claimed his second pole in as many days after turning the fastest lap in qualifying for this evening’s Active Pest Control 200 benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Busch swept in as the final attempt with a 30.844 second mark, 0.090 ahead of Matt Crafton.
“It’s got some speed in it,” Busch said of his truck. “We were really, really tight here last year and we made some good changes though the offseason with notes and came back here better prepared.”
Noah Gragson and Spencer Davis, who both drive for Kyle Busch Racing, are on the second row. Crafton edged Gragson by 0.001 of a second.
“I went out there and did what you’re supposed to do: I held it to the floor,” Davis said. “I still had a lot to learn, how to get around the bumps here at the track, but we had a fast truck and it showed here in practice (Friday) on the long runs.
“We made it count in the second stage of qualifying. Boss man barely beat me. I was hoping I could get him. That would have been some cool bragging rights. But, honestly, he’s been a ton of help.”
Eighteen-year-old Daytona runner-up Justin Haley qualified fifth. Dalton Sargeant, Stewart Friesen, Cody Coughlin, Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt round out the top 10. Sauter won last week at Daytona.
For more information or to purchase tickets today, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS- TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.