HAMPTON, Ga. – Christopher Bell did his best impression of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch en route to a clean sweep of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Bell, who led five times for a race-high 142 of 163 laps, won both stages and held off a hard-charging Cole Custer on a three-lap dash to the finish to score his ninth career series win and first of the season.
The Norman, Okla., native – who won seven times last year and earned a spot in the final four of the playoffs – becomes the second series regular in two races to secure a spot in the postseason this year.
“This was a really fun day,” said Bell in victory lane. “This car was a blast to drive and it’s the first Supra win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, so that means a lot to me to be the first driver to put that brand in victory lane. It looks great and it’s really fast, too.
“I knew I was going to have my hands full even if the caution didn’t come out, but I knew I could hold off (Reddick) if I moved up to the top like I did in those last few laps,” Bell added. “I was not in save mode. I was having to work for it to stay out there, but just really happy we were able to bring this one home.”
Saturday also marked the 150th Xfinity Series victory for Toyota as a manufacturer.
At a track historically known for dominance by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, Bell controlled the entire day. He took the point from polesitter Custer on the initial start and only gave up command for brief periods the rest of the way.
After losing a couple spots on pit road during the second stage break, Bell rose quickly back to the top of the heap, repassing Reddick on the outside of turn two with 72 laps left and jumping out to as much as five seconds in front of the field as the race wound into its final moments.
After his final pit stop with 40 to go, Bell found himself chased by Tyler Reddick, who grabbed second from Justin Allgaier with 29 laps left and ran Bell down from two seconds back.
Just as the battle was intensifying, a caution flag waved with eight to go for a spinning John Hunter Nemechek that sent the leaders down pit road and changed up Bell’s challengers in the final laps.
Though Bell won the race off pit road, it was his teammate Jeffrey Earnhardt who joined him on pit road for the final restart with three to go, after a pit-gun issue relegated Reddick from second back to sixth in the order.
Earnhardt spun the tires up high and quickly fell backwards, while Custer rallied through to claim second. Custer had a shot at Bell coming to the white flag, but Bell moved up high and took his momentum away, leaving the Stewart-Haas Racing young gun to settle in the end.
“That was a fun race. I thought the end was pretty good,” noted Custer. I thought I might get it for a second. We just didn’t have enough there and Bell kind of took my line there in the last lap.
“This is a great start to the year in our first race with the Jacob Companies Mustang. We got a new crew chief (Mike Shiplett) and it was huge for us to start the year strong. I feel like we’ll be a threat all year.”
Justin Allgaier crossed the line third, followed by Brandon Jones, who led after pit stops during the second stage break but was busted for speeding and had to come back from the tail of the field.
Reddick rallied to complete the top five, ahead of Earnhardt, Ryan Preece, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.