HAMPTON, Ga.—Christopher Bell delivered Toyota’s 150th Xfinity Series win—and the first in a Supra—in Saturday's Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A late-race caution—triggered by John Hunter Nemechek’s spin off of Turn 2—sent the race into over time, but Bell executed the restart flawlessly and held off Cole Custer by .191-seconds for his first victory in 2019.
“It made for a good finish, that’s for sure. Man, the 2 (Tyler Reddick) and the 00 (Custer) really both of them were pretty good on the long runs. Our Supra was really good. I feel like the last 5 or 10 laps, I died. Very thankful there to get the yellow and put some tires on it, but it would have been fun to race it out with Tyler there.”
Justin Allgaier finished third followed by Brandon Jones and Reddick. Both Jones and sixth-place Jeffrey Earnhardt posted career-best finishes at Atlanta. For Earnhardt, 29, the performance marked his first top-10 finish in 68 Xfinity Series starts.
Ryan Preece, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric rounded out the top 10.
Bell swept all three stage wins. He led five times for 142 laps en route to his ninth-career Xfinity Series win. For the 24-year-old driver, the greatest reward was scoring the first win with the Supra—and topping mentor Kyle Busch.
“That’s really really big,” Bell said. “It all just boils down to the fact that you don’t get to be a first-time winner very often. There’s a very good possibility Kyle is going to win one of the next three (races) and I beat him to Victory Lane. I’m all smiles right now.”
Bell took over the points lead with his victory. Jones trails his teammate by four points.
A record-setting run
Kyle Busch scored his 52nd truck victory on Saturday to become the all-time winner in the series.
After nearly a 26-minute delay for a five-truck wreck followed by mist, Busch raced to a .932-second lead over Johnny Sauter to win the Ultimate Tailgating 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch led four times for a total of 65 laps in the No. 51 Cessna Toyota en route to his fourth win at the 1.5-mile track.
“There we go, boys,” Busch said. “Nice. Finally got that KBM win for me at Atlanta.”
Busch, 33, topped the record set by Ron Hornaday, Jr., the four-time Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer. Hornaday’s 51st win came at Las Vegas in 2011.
Hornaday established the record over 17 seasons and 360-career starts. Busch reached the mark in 146 starts running a limited schedule over the last 16 seasons.
Grant Enfinger finished third followed by Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Ross Chastain, Austin Hill, Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland and Timothy Peters. Enfinger took the truck series point lead by one over Hill.
With 92 Xfinity Series wins, Busch also holds the record in that tour. But he was thrilled to set the truck series mark—particularly behind the wheel of a Kyle Busch Motorsports Tundra.
“It certainly means a lot,” Busch said. “I want to thank everyone at Cessna and Toyota —our amazing partners that allow us to do what we do…Can’t say enough about my guys, everybody here at Kyle Busch Motorsports. They do a phenomenal job.”
The race was slowed eight times for cautions. The race was red-flagged for eight minutes and 51 seconds followed by an additional 17 minutes for weather.
Making the most of a good opportunity
When iK9 offered to sponsor Jeffrey Earnhardt, the first question asked was: Where can we go and win races?
Since that opportunity was not available in the Monster Energy Cup Series level at their price point, they elected to concentrate on the Xfinity Series tour and landed with Joe Gibbs Racing.
The decision has paid off.
Last week at Daytona, Earnhardt led 29 laps before finishing 15th. On Saturday, Earnhardt finished a career-best sixth.
“It is awesome,” Earnhardt said. “Just to get to go and compete in a really good car like this.”
Earnhardt, who started eighth as the field was set by points due to inclement weather, worked his way up to second before the race went into overtime.
“I hate we got stuck on the outside on that last restart,” Earnhardt said. “Restarts are really hard on the outside here, but the Toyota Supra was super fast today.
“These guys put me in a heck of a car. We came up short on the win, but we showed we belong here and we’re going to run up front the rest of the races.”