The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) took to the track this weekend at the newly redesigned Richmond Raceway for their first of two stops during the 2018 season at the .075-mile speedway located in Richmond, VA. Christopher Bell and his Rheem team continued their hot streak, earning the second starting position on Friday afternoon, running a time of 26.336 seconds around the D-shaped oval. With his Rheem Camry dialed in for the majority of the night, Bell would go on to lead a race high 120-laps and secure his second-career NXS victory on Friday night.
Following the drop of the green flag, Bell slipped to third on lap one, and was scored in fourth when the first caution of the afternoon waved on lap 18. Staying out under the caution, Bell restarted in fourth on lap 24 and quickly begin making his way towards the front of the pack. Staying patient and letting the track come to him, Bell took over the race lead on lap 44 and continued to pace the field until slipping to second on lap 70. Bell maintained his position in second until the caution flag waved once again on lap 75 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. With teams on varying pit strategies, Bell and his Rheem team restarted the second stage in sixth on lap 89 after picking up one spot on pit road during the stop.
Following the lap 89 restart, the second stage would go green the entire run, with Bell working his way up to fifth by lap 95 and eventually taking over the race lead once again on lap 116. Fighting a tight Rheem Camry during the long green-flag run, Bell slipped to third by lap 133 and was scored in fourth on lap 150, the end of stage two. Following another round of pit stops under the caution, Bell restarted the final stage in third on lap 162.
With his Camry dialed in for the final stage, Bell quickly moved to second by lap 163 and eventually took over the race lead for good on lap 172. With the final laps once again going green the entire run, Bell would go on to lead the remaining 78 laps of the race, crossing the finish line and earning his second-career NXS victory for Joe Gibbs Racing.
With the win, Bell recorded his fifth top-five result of the season.
After eight NXS races this season, Bell sits second in the driver standings and virtually locked in his spot in the 2018 NXS Playoffs with his win in the ToyotaCare 250.
Bell has the most laps-led among active drivers in the NXS after eight races with 192.
Bell and his Rheem team will hit the track once again next weekend as the NXS pays a visit to Talladega Superspeedway. Coverage of the race begins at 3:00 PM ET live on Fox, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
How does it feel to finally get your first win this season?
“That was pretty special there buddy. Had to work for it. My teammate was really good. I knew throughout both practices that both of our cars were going to be really strong. Joe Gibbs Racing has been producing really, really fast Camrys for the last couple of weeks and it’s really shown. Man, I’m just really thankful for all of our partners at Rheem, GameStop, Toyota, TRD and everyone that was watching on the Xfinity X1 app, Xfinity for supporting the series and thank you to all of the fans that came out.”
Can you take us through how you were able to work through traffic in the closing laps of the race?
“Traffic with spotters on these tracks is not really much of a deal. They kind of just pull over for you. It’s just a matter of where you catch him. You don’t want to catch him in the middle of the corner if they are down and then saw your momentum. It’s just really important and kind of luck of the draw where you ran into him and if you were able to carry your momentum by him.”
What did you and Jason Ratcliff do to adjust your Camry to make it so good at the end?
“On these long runs here you just fight getting so tight in the center of the corners. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) did a good job making sure that we didn’t get too tight. I think the 18 (Noah Gragson) might have been a little bit better than us on the long run, but like I said we were able to get by him there early and then hold off late.”
Can you talk about taking your Toyota to victory lane in the ToyotaCare 250?
“Obviously this is a very important race for Toyota – the entire Toyota Racing Development and Toyota Motor Sales family. Thankfully, we had a really good Camry – all of JGR’s cars have been really fast for the past few weeks now. It’s really shown – JGR as a company could have run one, two, three at Bristol and should have run one, two at Bristol with Brandon Jones and Ryan Preece last week and then they did run one, two with myself and Noah tonight. That says a lot about the guys at the shop building really fast race cars and thankfully I’m the guy who gets to drive one of them.”
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