Christopher Bell fought his way into the Championship 4 finale, winning the Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Hemric will join him for the 2018 Xfinity Championship at Homestead Miami Speedway.
“We’re going to Homestead baby!” Bell exclaimed over the radio in celebration with his team.
Bell started the day by failing inspection three times during qualifying. According to the NASCAR rule book, the No. 20 Gamestop Toyota would lose their car chief and be forced to start in the rear. They did not get a qualifying time set, and started 38th for the race. However, they did not give up and took the lead just past halfway through the race, easily becoming the car to beat. It was Bell’s seventh win in his rookie season, a new Xfinity Series record.
“Man, that’s never sounded sweeter before in my life,” Bell said with a feeling of relief on the frontstretch in front of all the fans. “I’ll be honest, after Kansas and Texas, I accepted that we weren’t going to be able to get there [to the Championship 4]. I knew this thing was fast. It feels good to give Gamestop a win.”
The early parts of the race saw Justin Allgaier winning both stages, but a late-race collision with John Hunter Nemechek forced his team to make repairs, blocking the brake ducts. Later in the final run, Allgaier’s right front caught fire and he lost a lap, and eventually, his spot in the Championship 4.
”Disappointment,” Allgaier shared. “At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered, it was going to be a great day. Ultimately at the end, getting ourselves in that bad position, getting caught up in that little of a crash and losing brakes. At that point it was survival, gain as many points as we can gain.”
Elliott Sadler, Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft were the others eliminated from the Playoffs for the Xfinity Series.
Field Fights for Every Spot in Stage 1
As the field took the green flag, they were put under yellow for the third race in a row. Akinori Ogata in the No. 66 Toyota lost a deck lid and spun before the field could complete a lap. The team for the Japanese rookie was able to make repairs and continue in the race.
On the restart, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Preece were able to get by the outside rows and put themselves into the second and third positions respectively. Further along in the run, Preece’s car fell off pace with the leaders, but Allgaier was able to get by about 30 laps into the race.
With about five laps to go, Elliott Sadler made slight contact with the No. 40 Toyota of Chad Finchum. There was no visible tire smoke or rub, but Sadler did lose a few spots. While his teammate Allgaier would go on to win the stage, Sadler would be the only Playoff driver to finish outside of the top-10 and not collect any stage points.
Sadler would spend a lot of time on pit road as his team made repairs. He would stay on the lead lap. Austin Cindric beat Allgaier and Nemechek off pit road to claim the lead starting the second stage. Matt Tifft was caught speeding on pit road, and Brandon Jones was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation. Both drivers had to restart at the rear.
Allgaier Makes a Statement, Sweeps Both Stages
On the restart, Cindric chose the outside. As we saw in most cases during yesterday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck series, the inside was the preferred line with the extra room of the dogleg and the least risk going into Turn 1 fighting a 3-wide move. Allgaier was able to get by easily and reclaim the lead. He would lead all the laps and take the win in the second stage in a yellow-free stage.
However, it was not uneventful. With a handful of laps left, Bell was attempting to pass Cindric when the two made slight contact multiple times. The last bit of contact was coming out of Turn 2. Bell was not happy, shaking his fist out the window net at Cindric, and said over the radio to his team, “I so wanted to wreck him!”
During pit stops, Allgaier lost four positions as Nemechek reclaimed the lead.
Championship Hopes Flip in Final Stage
Bell clawed his way to the front and with 100 laps to go, claimed the top spot. Allgaier made a few adjustments on pit road to make his car a little faster, but lost track position and ran in the fourth position at this time.
During the run before their potential last pit stop, Cindric drove hard into Turn 1 but slid up in Turn 2, colliding into Allgaier. It was the second time Cindric collided into a Playoff drive. Allgaier held his hand out the window net, palm up, but was able to stay focused and drive forward to get around Nemechek for the third position. Cindric lost his fifth position to Matt Tifft, fighting his way back to the front after a pit road speeding penalty after Stage 1. By this time, the bottom four drivers were now in a must-win situation, so nerves and aggression were starting to get the best of some of those drivers.
With about 65 laps to go, Tyler Hill in the No. 13 spun right in front of a few championship drivers, but no other cars were collected. The yellow flag was displayed, and everyone came down pit road for what may be the final time. Bell won the battle off pit road and all Playoff contenders were in the top 11 at this point.
Tifft fought his way up into the second position on the restart, but a few laps into the run, there were two separate incidents. Ty Majeski spun in Turn 3 to officially bring out the yellow, but Nemechek got loose on the exit of Turn 4. Tyler Reddick inadvertently helped spin out Nemechek with slight contact, but the heaviest contact actually corrected his car when he dove to the inside and hit Allgaier, causing massive damage to the right front fenders. During the yellow, Allgaier came to pit road and his crew made repairs, and surprisingly, it did not affect the handling.
The field took the restart, and Allgaier was able to climb back up into the top-10. Tifft and Bell were both in must-win scenarios, and with both drivers running up front for the potential win, that forced Allgaier to start considering a must-win situation to ensure a chance for the championship at Homestead. With about 48 laps to go, the No. 8 Chevrolet of Tommy Joe Martins went up in smoke to bring out the yellow. He would retire from the race, as no front runners elected to visit pit road.
The Xfinity Series drivers would see yet another restart where most of the field panned out through the dogleg to fight for as many positions as possible. With some contact and beating and banging, Bell emerged as the leader with a hungry and hard-chargin Tifft.
With about 25 laps remaining, Allgaier had a fire in the right-front corner as he lost brakes, making his championship hopes go up in smoke. There was no damage to the tire, so he was able to continue without visiting pit road, but was much slower having no brakes in the right front. No other incidents occurred in the closing laps, as Bell secured his spot for the Championship 4 at Homestead.
The final championship race will be held at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Coverage for the Ford EcoBoost 300 begins at 3:30pm ET on Saturday, November 17.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
Unofficial Race Results for the 20Th Annual Whelen Trusted To Perform
200 – Saturday, November 10, 2018
ISM Raceway – Avondale, AZ – 1 Mile Paved
|1||38||20||Christopher Bell # (P)||GameStop Just Cause 4||Toyota|
|2||8||21||Daniel Hemric (P)||South Point Hotel & Casino||Chevrolet|
|3||10||2||Matt Tifft (P)||Go Green||Chevrolet|
|4||3||22||Austin Cindric # (P)||Discount Tire||Ford|
|5||5||18||Ryan Preece||Rheem/Smurfit Kappa||Toyota|
|6||14||9||Tyler Reddick # (P)||BurgerFi||Chevrolet|
|7||7||19||Brandon Jones||Toyota Service Centers/Mobil 1||Toyota|
|8||2||00||Cole Custer (P)||Haas Automation||Ford|
|9||1||42||John Hunter||Nemechek Fire Alarm Services Inc.||Chevrolet|
|10||11||23||Spencer Gallagher||ISM Connect||Chevrolet|
|11||6||1||Elliott Sadler (P)||Hunt Brothers Pizza||Chevrolet|
|12||12||16||Ryan Reed||Drive Down A1C Lilly Diabetes||Ford|
|13||15||11||Ryan Truex||LeafFilter Gutter Protection||Chevrolet|
|14||9||3||Shane Lee||CIPT/Race to Give||Chevrolet|
|15||23||4||Ross Chastain||Flex Seal||Chevrolet|
|16||13||5||Michael Annett||Pilot Flying J||Chevrolet|
|19||16||39||Ryan Sieg||Lombard Brothers||Chevrolet|
|20||17||36||Alex Labbe #||Can-Am/Wholey/Cyclops Gear||Chevrolet|
|21||19||38||JJ Yeley||Iron Mountain Data Centers||Chevrolet|
|22||21||35||Joey Gase||Donate Life Arizona/Sparks||Chevrolet|
|23||28||01||BJ McLeod||Flex Glue||Chevrolet|
|24||4||7||Justin Allgaier (P)||BRANDT Professional Agriculture||Chevrolet|
|25||26||90||Donald Theetge||Mercedes-Benz St. Nicolas/Circuit Acura||Chevrolet|
|26||27||0||Garrett Smithley||Flex Tape||Chevrolet|
|28||32||76||Spencer Boyd #||Grunt Style||Chevrolet|
|30||34||55||Bayley Currey(i)||Rollin Smoke Barbeque/Touched by Pros||Toyota|
|31||31||13||Tyler Hill||OCR Gaz Bar||Dodge|
|32||36||74||Mike Harmon||Veterans 4 Child Rescue||Chevrolet|
|34||40||45||Josh Bilicki #||Prevagen||Toyota|
|36||37||78||Vinnie Miller #||CorvetteParts.net/JW Transport LLC||Chevrolet|
|37||22||40||Chad Finchum #||Smithbilt Homes||Toyota|
|39||35||89||Morgan Shepherd||Visone RV||Chevrolet|
|40||25||93||Jeff Green||RSS Racing||Chevrolet|