The NASCAR Xfinity Series held their first race of the championship Playoffs at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night for the Go Bowling 250, and one driver got one step closer to the championship trophy.
Christopher Bell, piloting his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, captured the win and earned that first Playoff spot moving him on to the second round. Bell took the lead from fellow championship contender Matt Tifft late in the race on what was the final restart of the night.
“It’s not very often you get to win with a car that’s not a winning car, so we’ll take it,” Bell commented. “Just thank you to my pit crew for the awesome pit stops tonight. I’m just pumped. I couldn’t be happier.”
Last week’s winner, Ross Chastain, had another great run in his final race driving the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He finished the night in the runner-up spot.
“I just wanted to come in and do my job, I hope I did enough. That’s the scariest thing not knowing where this leads, but I know I’ve got a great group of people behind me in Florida,” Chastain stated. “I’ll let them keep guiding me through this crazy NASCAR world.”
Coming in third place was fan favorite driver Daniel Hemric in his No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“I’m proud of how I executed here in the first race, first round Playoffs,” Hemric said, “We had a ton of speed from the time we unloaded it. We knew this was a really good opportunity race track for us, it’s one of my favorite race tracks if not the favorite race track I get to come to.”
Making the night of racing even more exciting was the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the track. Earnhardt Jr. came out of retirement to run tonight and dominated much of the race, even capturing his first Xfinity stage win in Stage 2 of the event. He brought his No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet home in fourth.
“It got my expectations all messed up,” Earnhardt said after the race. “Man, I’m like, ‘Dang, I’ve got to win now.’ But we didn’t have the car at the end. We started on the outside (on the final restart), which was kind of tough. Just didn’t have what we needed at the end. But I’m glad that we got to lead a lot of laps. We ran really good for all the people that came down to watch us.”
Rounding out the top five was Tifft as Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick, Brandon Jones, Shane Lee, and Reed finished sixth through 10th, respectively.
Stage 1 ran flag to flag without any cautions. Regular season champion Justin Allgaier proved strong as he, Hemric, and Bell all battled for the lead. Bell would come out on top and win the stage.
Stage 2 slowed the pace for one caution period when Ryan Reed got into the bumper of teammate Ty Majeski sending him hard into the wall. Bell and Hemric fought each other for the lead, however, late in the stage, Earnhardt Jr. took the lead from Bell to score the stage win. The driver on the move was Chastain after his pit crew told him that it was time to go.
The final stage had a few caution periods, most of which were minor. However, the race end came a little early for Allgaier after Cole Custer got into the back of him and spun him around. Earnhardt Jr. saw his win slip away when he lost the lead on the final pit stop of the night. Bell took the lead with 13 laps to go and didn’t look back until he took the checkered flag.
The Playoff leaderboard has Bell in first place with 2090 points, and moving on to round two with his win. Hemric is in second with 2062 points, Allgaier is third (2056) and Chastain is fourth with 2053 points. Elliott Sadler (2051), Tifft (2047), Tyler Reddick (2046) and Brandon Jones (2035) round out the top eight Playoff contenders.
The Xfinity Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway next week on Saturday, Sept. 29.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Unofficial Race Results for the 38Th Annual Gobowling 250 – Friday, September 21, 2018
Richmond Raceway – Richmond, VA – .75 Mile Paved
|1||1||20||Christopher Bell # (P)||Rheem||Toyota|
|2||3||42||Ross Chastain (P)||DC Solar||Chevrolet|
|3||6||21||Daniel Hemric (P)||South Point Hotel & Casino||Chevrolet|
|4||2||88||Dale Earnhardt||Jr Hellmann’s Camaro||Chevrolet|
|5||10||2||Matt Tifft (P)||Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup||Chevrolet|
|6||13||1||Elliott Sadler (P)||OneMain Financial||Chevrolet|
|7||14||9||Tyler Reddick # (P)||Nationwide Children’s||Chevrolet|
|8||9||19||Brandon Jones (P)||Juniper||Toyota|
|9||8||3||Shane Lee||Childress Vineyards||Chevrolet|
|10||21||16||Ryan Reed (P)||Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes||Ford|
|11||7||11||Ryan Truex (P)||LeafFilter Gutter Protection||Chevrolet|
|13||11||22||Austin Cindric # (P)||MoneyLion||Ford|
|14||17||5||Michael Annett||Pilot Flying J||Chevrolet|
|15||4||00||Cole Custer (P)||Go Bowling||Ford|
|17||18||39||Ryan Sieg||Larry’s Hard Lemonade||Chevrolet|
|19||22||90||Mason Diaz||Solid Rock Carriers||Chevrolet|
|20||27||52||David Starr||Extreme Kleaner||Chevrolet|
|21||19||36||Alex Labbe #||sticky-stuff.com/James Carter Attorney||Chevrolet|
|22||23||35||Joey Gase||Donate Life Virginia||Chevrolet|
|23||26||8||Ray Black II||ISOKERN||Chevrolet|
|25||28||38||JJ Yeley||RSS Racing||Chevrolet|
|26||34||40||Chad Finchum #||Smithbilt Homes||Toyota|
|27||25||78||Matt Mills #||JF Electric||Chevrolet|
|28||32||15||Katherine Legge||BUBBA burger||Chevrolet|
|29||31||55||Bayley Currey||Rollin Smoke Barbeque/Touched by Pros||Toyota|
|30||39||45||Josh Bilicki #||Prevagen||Toyota|
|32||5||7||Justin Allgaier (P)||BRANDT Professional Agriculture||Chevrolet|
|33||30||76||Spencer Boyd #||Grunt Style||Chevrolet|
|35||38||74||Mike Harmon||The Journey Home Project||Chevrolet|
|37||37||01||Vinnie Miller #||JAS Expedited Trucking||Chevrolet|
|39||35||93||Jeff Green||RSS Racing||Chevrolet|
|40||33||89||Morgan Shepherd||Visone RV||Chevrolet|