Clear as a Bell

Christopher Bell races to 3rd-straight NASCAR Xfinity victory

AP PHOTO - Christopher Bell celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race Saturday at Iowa Speedway in Newton. Bell’s win was his third-straight in the Xfinity Series, matching the best stretch since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did the same in 1999.

NEWTON — Christopher Bell made history Saturday at Iowa Speedway — even though nearly everything that could go against him did down the stretch.

Bell moved back out front in overtime to win a wild NASCAR Xfinity series race on Newton’s bull ring, becoming the first series regular with three straight victories since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.

Coming off victories in Kentucky and New Hampshire, Bell led 94 of 257 laps. He broke a tie with Cup driver Kyle Larson for the series season victory lead with four.

“When it’s your day, it’s your day,” Bell said. “I’ll take them any way I can get them, man.”

Bell fell back to fourth in the first attempt at overtime before a red flag halted the race. He retook control in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car, going low to beat Justin Allgaier –the winner of the June race at Iowa.

Allgaier was second, followed by Kyle Benjamin and Ross Chastain.

Bell seized the top spot early in the final stage and, after a clean final pit stop, seemed set to cruise to a victory if the race stayed green.

It didn’t, and Bell nearly got knocked out of the race in the first of three late incidents that set up a thrilling finish.

Bell avoided a near-disastrous crash with 14 laps left when Chase Briscoe spun out right in front of him. Bell somehow kept the No. 20 largely clean, and he held first on a restart with nine laps left before Garrett Smithley spun out to draw another flag that brought on overtime.

Allgaier got the best of the field on that restart though, emerging from the pack on the high groove to grab the lead. That wouldn’t last, as Max Tullman and Matt Tifft drew the red flag with a big crash before the first overtime lap could be completed.

When the race resumed, Bell and Allgaier rubbed cars before Bell jumped ahead.

“(Bell) drove into me and tried to put me into the wall,” Allgaier said. “It’s disappointing to be in that position, especially when you think you know how somebody is going to race you … unfortunately that’s Iowa. And (Bell) definitely had the best car. No questions asked.”

Elliott Sadler started on the pole for the first time since Indianapolis in 2017. Cole Custer beat Sadler on the first restart of the race, which came after an early caution, and picked up his first stage win and playoff point.

Custer continued his strong run in the second stage. But Bell, who had moved to within less than a car length of Custer, slipped down to the inside line and finally passed Custer with five laps to go. It was the fourth stage win of the season for Bell, who now leads the point standings by 16 over Sadler.

It was the seventh victory at Iowa for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Bell.

“I was just praying for no yellow (flags) there on that long green flag run. When it came, it just became time to execute on restarts. I let one get away on me, but this thing was so good I was able to come from the second row,” Bell said.

Benjamin, in his final scheduled start of the season in JGR’s No. 18 car, posted his second top-10 finish in three tries at Iowa.

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At Iowa Speedway, Newton

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (3) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 257

2. (7) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 257

3. (4) Kyle Benjamin, Toyota, 257

4. (18) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 257

5. (11) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 257

6. (1) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 257

7. (19) Ryan Reed, Ford, 257

8. (14) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 257

9. (2) Cole Custer, Ford, 257

10. (12) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 257

11. (10) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 257

12. (9) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 257

13. (8) Shane Lee, Chevrolet, 256

14. (17) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 256

15. (15) Casey Roderick, Chevrolet, 256

16. (21) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 255

17. (22) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 255

18. (6) Austin Cindric, Ford, 254

19. (23) David Starr, Chevrolet, 253

20. (13) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 253

21. (25) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 253

22. (5) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 252

23. (27) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 252

24. (31) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 251

25. (24) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 250

26. (16) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, Accident, 249

27. (28) Brandon Hightower, Chevrolet, 249

28. (30) Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 248

29. (34) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 247

30. (26) Max Tullman, Ford, Accident, 245

31. (36) Peter Shepherd III, Toyota, 242

32. (35) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 241

33. (37) Stan Mullis, Chevrolet, 236

34. (20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 206

35. (32) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Ignition, 140

36. (40) Dexter Bean, Chevrolet, Vibration, 73

37. (29) Chad Finchum, Toyota, Brakes, 56

38. (33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 46

39. (39) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Electrical, 36

40. (38) Josh Bilicki, Toyota, Engine, 2

——

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 97.772 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 18 Mins, 00 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.421 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 41 laps.

Lead Changes: 12 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: E. Sadler 1-26; C. Custer 27-67; E. Sadler 68-82; C. Custer 83-115; C. Bell 116-123; C. Custer 124-153; C. Bell 154-200; B. Jones 201; K. Benjamin 202-206; S. Lee 207-212; C. Bell 213-249; J. Allgaier 250-255; C. Bell 256-257.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Custer 3 times for 104 laps; C. Bell 4 times for 94 laps; E. Sadler 2 times for 41 laps; S. Lee 1 time for 6 laps; J. Allgaier 1 time for 6 laps; K. Benjamin 1 time for 5 laps; B. Jones 1 time for 1 lap.