DOVER, Del.—Track position turned out to be the deciding factor for Christopher Bell at Dover International Speedway on Saturday.
Although Cole Custer led a race-high 155 laps in the Allied Steel Buildings 200, a solid pit stop by the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team on Lap 156 gave Bell the lead.
The Toyota driver held off the competition over the final two restarts for his third win of the season and his second at the Monster Mile.
“I felt like the race was going to be won by who got off of pit road first and had the lead,” Bell said. “Then it was going to be a battle for sure.”
Bell pulled out to a 1.745-second lead over Justin Allgaier at the finish. With his 11th-career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory, Bell picked up the 50th Anniversary golden monster trophy and the $100,000 Dash4Cash bonus.
Tyler Reddick, Custer, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith and Michael Annett rounded out the top 10.
Custer won the first two stages with Bell in tow. He had command of the race to start the third stage. On Lap 153, Nemechek sent Kaz Grala into the spin cycle after tapping his left rear corner on the backstretch. Bell took the lead in the pits followed by Allgaier, Custer, Noah Gragson, Reddick Cindric, Smith, Annett and Jones.
The race went green for 17 laps until Riley Herbst spun on the frontstretch. Bell executed a stellar restart to extend his lead as Allgaier and Reddick battled behind him for position. Allgaier tagged the wall—and Reddick in the process.
“That next-to last restart I tried to get in front of Tyler coming off Turn 2, and as soon as he crossed over, my car kinda took off and pounded the fence really hard, I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to keep going,” said Allgaier, who posted his best result of the season since finishing second at Daytona.
“Hats off to everyone at JR Motorsports because obviously the car took a beating but kept going. Our Brandt Professional Agricultural Camaro was good today, it wasn’t great. I wanted to try and battle with Christopher there at the end, but we were just off a little bit all day.”
The fifth and final caution was triggered by wreck involving Gray Gaulding and Vinnie Miller on the next lap. Once again, Bell burst out to the lead and held on over the remaining 14 laps.
Bell has been critical of his restart prowess of late, but practice made perfect for the driver of the No. 20 Rheem Toyota on Saturday.
“A lot of it is just the air games and knowing how the air manipulates your car and stuff like that,” Bell said. “There’s no doubt that there’s no harder restarts in the world than racing with the World of Outlaws. Those guys train you really good and it is double-file restarts over there too.
“A lot of it here, too, is just who gets the right push, who makes the right air block or placing air on different parts of the other guys cars. The air stuff is what I’ve struggled with and I think I’m getting a little bit better at it.”
Reddick retained the points lead by 23 over Bell. Custer is third in the standings, 71 points behind Reddick. But after the race, Custer was crushed about the one that got away.
“It’s really difficult when you led that many laps,” Custer said. “You just can’t give up your track position here.
“Everybody wants to win at Dover. It’s about the hardest track to pass that we go to… It’s just so frustrating. We were so good, and we couldn’t take advantage of a great car today.”