Christopher Bell qualified third for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 but quickly grabbed the lead on Lap 6 and went on to dominate the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway to become the first driver to earn a spot in the Championship 4.
The Norman, Okla., native led 101 of 200 laps in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (JGR), including the final 30, to take the checkered flag by 5.561 seconds ahead of Ross Chastain in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. It was Bell’s eighth victory of the season, 16th in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career and first career trip to Texas Motor Speedway’s Sunoco Victory Lane.
Austin Cindric finished third in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, with Brandon Jones fourth in the No. 19 JGR Toyota and Justin Allgaier in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet rounding out the top five. Cole Custer finished eighth in the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Ford.
“I like where we are at, that’s for sure,” said Bell. “There a couple of places earlier in the year that the car drove really, really nice and we were just weren’t able to compete with some of the other competitors, but right now, I feel like we can be a little off on balance and still be competitive. So that’s means whenever we hit it we are going to be really good. I feel like the 2 (Tyler Reddick) was really good there with us and obviously he ran into some bad luck there and crashed, but winning is always outstanding.”
“The Homestead car is sitting there,” Bell said of the car he’ll drive in the championship race. “It has been getting touched a little bit, but obviously we still have priorities in line, where now, I believe Homestead becomes the number one focus.”
Pole sitter and championship contender Tyler Reddick proved to be Bell’s strongest competition throughout the majority of the race, leading four times for 32 laps, but a crash on the back straight ended his day on Lap 161.
Reddick led the first five laps before Bell took over the top spot one lap later. Bell would go on to lead 69 of the first 90 laps and, in the process, earned his 19th and 20th stage wins of the season despite persistent challenges from Reddick and Allgaier.
With Bell now locked into a spot in the championship race, the battle for the remaining three spots is at a fever pitch. In addition to Reddick, playoff contenders Noah Gragson and Chase Briscoe crashed in the final stage. Custer sits 52 points above the cutline, Reddick is 36 and Allgaier is 18. Briscoe is 18 below the cutline, with Michael Annett 28 points back, Austin Cindric 31 down and Gragson is 47 points back.
There were nine lead changes among four drivers and nine cautions for 51 laps.
Now all eyes turn to Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, the second race in the Round of 8 in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, at 2 p.m. CT on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90, and PRN.
For 2020 season ticket or race information, please visit texasmotorspeedway.com or call the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500. With an adult ticket purchase, accompanying tickets for children 12-and-under are $10 for the AAA Texas 500 and free for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 playoff race.
Courtesy; Texas Motor Speedway