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NASCAR Xfinity: Christopher Bell scores first win at Kansas Speedway

Christopher Bell celebrates in victory lane at Kansas Speedway after winning the Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 21, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Christopher Bell celebrates in victory lane at Kansas Speedway after winning the Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 21, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Christopher Bell claimed his first-career NASCAR Xfinity Series win Saturday in the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City, his fifth-career start in the series.

“It’s my first Xfinity win,” Bell said “I’m sorry that Erik (Jones) couldn’t finish the race, but I’m just stoked. This thing was just awesome. This JBL Toyota Camry was absolutely outstanding, and I’m really thankful to be a part of this Joe Gibbs Racing foundation. It’s a dream to be here and to be able to win in the Xfinity Series. It’s something that I dreamed of as a kid and I’m just really excited about that.”

Tyler Reddick was second and Ryan Blaney third. Xfinity Series regulars and playoff drivers William Byron and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top-five. For Byron, the top-five finish came after a start in the back. He qualified sixth but was put in the back for the green flag because of an unapproved change to his car.

The race win came down to a duel between Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Bell and Erik Jones after Jones led most of the 200-lap race. Bell took second from Blaney inside the final 10 laps and closed on Jones. He got out ahead of Jones and attempted to slide up in front of his teammate with about four laps to go. The two teammates made contact and got into the wall. As a result, Jones fell off the pace, but Bell continued up front.

“I’m going to apologize, and it sucks that we couldn’t race it out or that he didn’t finish the race,” Bell said. “I don’t know man. I cleared him, there. We were both on old tires, and we were both sliding around.”

Jones dominated the 200-lap race and won both of the 45-lap stages in the first half and his 186 laps led was the most laps the driver led in an Xfinity race at a mile-and-a-half track. It also set a track record for most laps led by a single driver in an Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway. Jones wound up 15th at the finish.

Jones took the lead from pole sitter Reddick and led the entire opening stage. Ryan Blaney also got by Reddick in the opening laps to take second. Blaney, then, ran second to Jones for much of the race.

“The 18 (Bell) and 20 (Jones) were really strong today,” Blaney said. “I thought we were getting better there at the end, and then, we had a right-rear come apart at the end of the race. That sucked. I thought that we had something at the end for the leaders. Just not our day. We just stalled out with 15 laps to go.”

Reddick got a push from Blaney on the restart at the beginning of the second stage to take a quick lead, but Jones retook the spot on lap 55. Blaney took the lead from Jones on lap 82, but three laps later, Jones was, again, up front.

Jones was shuffled back to fifth, due to varying pit strategies, after the conclusion of stage two. Ty Dillon restarted the race with the lead after staying out. Jones quickly got up to second on the restart and then took the lead. Dillon lost several more positions. Blaney, eventually, got back up to 2nd.

Bell beat Blaney off pit road during a lap-138 caution to restart on the front row next to Jones, but when the race restarted, Blaney rejoined Jones up front by taking second from Bell.

Aside from the two cautions that separated the race into its three stages, the yellow flag waved only two other times — for an Elliott Sadler spin into the infield grass on lap 77 and, again, on lap 138 for simultaneous, separate incidents involving Austin Dillon and Ryan Sieg. Sadler dug himself into a deeper hole during the caution he caused when he drove through too many pit stalls in route to his own.

Still, Dillon finished the race sixth, and Sadler was seventh.

Matt Tifft finished eighth after, like Byron, starting in the back. Ty Dillon was ninth, and Ryan Reed rounded out the top-10.

Three playoff drivers finished outside the top-10 — Brennan Poole in 12th, Daniel Hemric in 18th and Cole Custer 19th.

Hemric slid through his pit stall on his last trip to pit road, and as a result of his team beginning to service the car when it was out of the pit box, he was penalized a lap. Custer lost several positions when he made a pit stops in the final two laps of the race.

“We were a solid car, could have done better,” Custer said. “We fought hard to keep it in the top-10. We got good stage points. Nothing we could do at the end of the race, because we ran over something late in the race and crippled the right front. It’s just how it goes. There was a big cut in the tire and had to pit.”

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer).

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Posted by on October 21, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. 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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