Bell bowls over the competition at Richmond

Bell bowls over the competition at Richmond
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

RICHMOND, Va.—Christopher Bell is all about records.

On Friday night at Richmond Raceway, Bell amassed the maximum number of points by winning both stages en route to his seventh win of the season and his third at the .75-mile track in five career starts. He led 238 of 250 laps in the Go Bowling 250 to collect his sixth short-track win in his last 11 starts on venues of a mile or less.

But more importantly, Bell’s 15th-career victory locks him into the next round of the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

“I told every one of my guys, this is an important race right here because if you win this, you’re pretty much safe until you get to the middle of October going to Kansas,” said Bell who extended his lead over Cole Custer by 22 points in the standings. “This one means a lot. And it’s number seven, that’s pretty good too.”

Polesitter Austin Cindric finished second, 1.7-seconds behind Bell. Custer, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson, Zane Smith, Michael Annett and Tyler Reddick rounded out the top 10.

“I feel confident we can run top five, but you want to win,” Cindric said. “I think the Gibbs cars have been exceptionally good on road courses this year, so I’d expect Bell to be on it. 

“He’s probably got a little confidence now that he’s decided he can actually road race, so he’s done a good job and I expect to be racing him for sure.”

Cindric led the first six laps, before Bell assumed control. The action was slowed three times in Stage 1—first when Mike Marlar wrecked on the first lap on the backstretch. Vinnie Miller crashed in Turn 2 to ignite the second caution on Lap 51. Tyler Matthews triggered the third racing incident on Lap 60.

The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota held the point through the end of Stage1 for the win. When Bell  pitted on Lap 80, Brandon Jones remained on the race track and assumed the lead. Once the race returned to green on Lap 84, Bell regained the lead and never looked back.

“That one was pretty special,” Bell said. “Going 92 laps straight here is really difficult. We were sliding all around. I felt like if I could get to traffic I was going to be in good shape because my car could move around really good. I could run up or I could run down.

“The 00 (Custer) was keeping pressure on us pretty good, but this Rheem Supra was too good.”

Bell held serve to win Stage 2 by 3.8-seconds over Custer on Lap 150. Custer, who started 12th and was under the weather, trailed Bell until the final 10 laps when he was passed by Cindric. Still, Custer was pleased by the result.

“We were able to kind of work forward there and didn’t quite have enough for the 20,” Custer said of Bell. “He could just kind of tie the corner together better than I did, but I think it was a really good way to start off the Playoffs. 

“We’re 60 points to the good now, so going to the Roval you have no idea what to expect, so that makes you feel a little bit better.”

While Custer has a cushion, Bell has a mulligan for the next two races. He now moves one step closer to his ultimate goal—winning titles in NASCAR’s top three tours.

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to set record, break records,” Bell said. “I love getting track records whenever we qualify. To be able to be the first driver to have three championships would be really, really – that would be a pretty cool record to have.”

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