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NASCAR Xfinity: Christopher Bell opens playoffs with Richmond win

RICHMOND, VA – SEPTEMBER 21: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, celebrates in Victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway on September 21, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Christopher Bell became the first driver to lock in advancement to the second round of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs Friday night in the playoff-opening GoBowling.com 250 at Richmind (Va.) Raceway. The latest win was Bell’s fifth of the season, equalling Justin Allgaier’s tally, so far, in 2018, and completed at Richmond sweep after also winning there in April.

“I’ll tell you what, buddy, that’s pretty cool,” Bell said. “It’s not very often that you get to win with a car that’s not a winning car, so we’ll take it. Just thank you to my pit crew for the awesome pit stops tonight. Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) did a great job making this thing better each and every time we hit the pit road. Man, I’m just pumped. To be able to sweep Richmond and to get five wins on top of that just couldn’t be happier.”

Bell started on the pole and led 67 laps of the 250-lap race. He took his final lead from fellow-playoff driver Matt Tifft on the final restart on lap 237.

“Luckily, I got to start in the middle of the race track instead of the top of the race track, and that really helped,” Bell said. “I don’t know if the 2 (Tifft) car was getting pressure to the inside or not but I took the lead leaving (turn) two.”

Tifft drifted back to fifth by the checkered flag.

Ross Chastain capped off his three-race deal to drive the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing, adding a second-place finish to his Las Vegas Motor Speedway win from the previous weekend. Daniel Hemric finished third to give playoff drivers a sweep of the top-three.

The only non-playoff driver in the top-five of the finishing order was Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt parlayed his one-off return to NASCAR competition into a fourth-place finish after leading a race-high 96 laps.

Earnhardt also was a stage winner, running up front at the end of the second 75-lap stage after Hemric took the first.

Bell was second in both stages.

Bell, Justin Allgaier, Hemric and Earnhardt battled inside the top-four throughout the opening stage before Hemric took his stage-winning pass on lap 46.

Bell was up front at the start of the second stage after getting out of the pits first, but on lap 124, Earnhardt took the lead and ran up front for the remainder of the second stage. By the end of the race, Earnhardt led a race-high 96 of the 250 laps that made up the race.

A weekend after being officially crowned the 2018 Xfinity Series regular-season champion, Justin Allgaier ended the first playoff race in the garage. He led 37 laps but sustained significant enough damage in an on-track incident on lap 226 to force his early retirement. He wound up 32nd.

Other playoff drivers outside the top-10 at the finish were Ryan Truex in 11th, Austin Cindric in 13th and Cole Custer 15th.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick, Brandon Jones, Shane Lee and Ryan Reed.

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Posted by on September 22, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR,NASCAR Xfinity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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