The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) took to the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) this weekend for race two of the 2018 season. Looking to bounce back from the season opener last weekend in Daytona, Bell and his Ruud team went out on Saturday morning and ran a blistering-fast lap of 30.600 seconds around the 1.5-mile speedway, good enough for Bell’s second-career pole award in 10 NXS starts. After leading the field to the green Saturday afternoon for the 163-lap event, Bell went on to lead 12 laps, and crossed the finish line in the third position, earning his first top-five finish of the 2018 season.
With the field rolling under perfect conditions at the Hampton, GA facility, Bell slipped to second following the drop of the green flag, but regained the top spot by lap five and would continue to pace the field until the first caution of the afternoon waved on lap 11 for a spin on the front stretch. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in first on lap 16. Fighting a loose Ruud Camry following the restart, Bell slipped to second by lap 28 and was scored in third when the second caution of the afternoon waved on lap 36 for debris. Under the caution, veteran crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to the Rudd Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted in 12th on lap 39. With stage one ending on lap 40, Bell wasted no time on the restart, picking up 10 spots in one lap and crossed the finish line in second when the caution flag waved once again for the end of stage two. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted stage two in second on lap 47.
The second stage would go green for the entire run with Bell maintaining his position in second until lap 80 when the caution flag waved once again signaling the end of the second stage. Under the caution, Ratcliff once again called the young rookie down pit road for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments to the Ruud Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted the final stage in third on lap 88.
Battling with Cup Veteran Joey Logano for most of stage three, Bell battled his way back into second on lap 98, and maintained his position until making a green-flag pit stop on lap 126 for four tires, fuel and one last air-pressure adjustment to the Ruud Camry. Once green-flag stops cycled through the field on lap 130, Bell was once again scored in the second position. Bell continued to run inside the top three for the remaining 33 laps of the race, ultimately crossing the finish line in the third position. With his third-place finish, Bell was the top-finishing Toyota as well as the top-finishing NXS regular in Saturday’s race at AMS. Bell also earned his first Rookie of the Race award of the season.
Bell and his Rheem team will return to the track next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for race three of the 2018 season. Coverage of the race begins at 3:30 PM ET live on Fox Sports 1, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
What’s your takeaway from the race today?
“Our Ruud Camry was really fast. We just weren’t quite good enough to catch up to the 98 (Kevin Harvick). I felt like the 22 (Joey Logano) and I were pretty equal. At times I’d be better, at times he’d be better. Probably just used it up too much on that last one. I hope the all fans enjoyed watching the race on their Xfinity X1 app and tune in next week for a good one at Vegas (Las Vegas Motor Speedway).”
How would you describe your day?
“I don’t know. I am a little bit bummed right now but I will probably wake tomorrow and be pretty happy with it. Our Ruud Camry was fast but I wasn’t good enough to run with the 98 (Harvick). And I don’t know if I put myself up too fast on the green flag pit stop that the 22 (Logano) was able to get by me late in the race. I don’t know what I missed on but our guys brought a really fast Camry and we’ll try to get them in Vegas next week.”
How important was it for you to come to that Xfinity Series test here?
“Well it’s huge. This place is really hard to get around. Between all my different teams that I’ve driven for at Kyle Busch Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, I have been able to test here twice, have done two Truck Series races and now an Xfinity Series race. Out of the NASCAR tracks, this is probably where I have the most laps at. It definitely helped me today. It’s a ton of fun. Thank you to Atlanta for not repaving this place and hopefully we can squeak another year out of it. This is one of the best surfaces we go to on this schedule.”