Following a two-week break, Christopher Bell and his Rheem team paid a visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Alsco 300 and race 11 of the 2018 season. After qualifying his Rheem Camry seventh for the 200-lap event, Bell crossed the finish line in the third position, securing his seventh top-five finish of the season.
Following the drop of the green flag, Bell settled into seventh and started making his way through the field, cracking the top five by lap 10. The first caution flag of the day waved on lap 23 with Bell being scored in fifth and reporting to his Rheem team that his Camry felt pretty good. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in fifth on lap 27. Bell picked up on more spot during the run and was scored in fourth when the caution flag waved once again on lap 45, signaling the end of Stage One. Under the caution, crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted Stage Two in fifth on lap 52.
Bell and his Rheem team would be a mainstay inside the top 10 for the duration of the Second Stage, being scored in seventh by lap 80 and ending Stage Two in sixth on lap 91. With an opportunity to work on their car under the caution, Ratcliff once again called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment on the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted the final stage in ninth on lap 97
With teams on various pit strategies during the final stage, Bell worked his way up to third by lap 115 and was scored in second when the caution flag waved on lap 126 for a brief passing shower. With an opportunity to once again hit pit road for adjustments under the caution, Bell brought his Camry to pit road for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Following the stop, Bell restarted in third on lap 132.
Bell continued to run inside the top five until the red flag was displayed for over an hour for rain with 27 laps remaining in the race. Following the delay, Bell restarted in seventh on lap 176 and quickly made his march towards the front. Running down the leader during the closing laps of the race, Bell was scored in second when the final caution of the afternoon waved with two laps remaining for debris. Starting on the outside of the front row for the final restart, Bell ran three wide with his competitors for the remaining laps of the race, ultimately crossing the finish line in the third position for Joe Gibbs Racing.
With his third-place finish, Bell was the highest finishing Rookie and Toyota Racing driver. By virtue of his third-place finish, Bell moves up to second in the driver’s points standings heading into Pocono next weekend.
Bell and his Rheem team will return to the track next weekend at Pocono Raceway for the Series only stop at the “Tricky Triangle”. Coverage of the race begins at 1:00pm ET on Saturday, June 2nd live on Fox Sports 1, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
Take us through that final restart.
“I mean the rain didn’t really have anything to do with it. I just didn’t execute there. I don’t know. I was disappointed to see the yellow cause I felt like I was starting to make some runs on them down the straightaways. Just didn’t execute on the restart.”
Take us through your final overtime laps.
“I was just heartbroken whenever I saw that piece of debris fly off those lapped cars. Felt like we were really getting – starting to make some runs there. I think we were coming to two to go and I was getting the top going pretty good in (turn) one and two. Felt like I was going to have shot at him if the yellow didn’t come out and then obviously when the yellow came out, I did have a shot at him and just didn’t execute on that last restart.”
What was your biggest challenge throughout the event?
“For me, we just fought dirty air the entire race. Qualifying seventh and then starting on the bottom, just could never really break through there and I felt like our Rheem Camry was capable of running in the top two or three all day long, but just seemed like every time I’d lose a couple spots on the restart and I’d just be buried and have to climb my way up through there. I felt like our car was good, we just never really had the opportunity to show how good it was until right there at the end.”
What was the strategy being discussed throughout the course of that rain delay?
“I think the biggest thing was just, you know in the Xfinity Series, we’re limited on tires here, so kind of you saw a bunch of different strategies of when the people took their last sets of tires. (Brad) Keselowski took it earlier and that was, that was good because he was going to have track position, but then we kept getting yellows and bringing us up with new tires closer to him. I think me and Cole (Custer) were on the same strategy and we probably had the winning strategy, we just didn’t get it done. The old Cup guy beat us.