Bell, fast pit crew, ring up Xfinity win

Christopher Bell celebrates his Xfinity Allied Steel Buildings 200 win at Dover International Speedway on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Christopher Bell had better get ready to divvy up some of the $100,000 bonus that he received for winning the Allied Steel Buildings 200 Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway on Saturday with the members of his pit crew.

Because if it wasn’t for a lightning-fast pit stop his pit crew executed that put Bell in the lead under a caution period with 44 laps remaining, it’s doubtful the driver would have been able to overtake Cole Custer, who dominated by leading the first 156 laps of the race.

Once Bell assumed the top position in his No. 20 Rheem-sponsored Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, he never looked back, holding command and surviving two restarts over the final 24 laps on Dover’s high-banked, one-mile concrete oval.

The 24-year-old driver from Norman, Oklahoma, pocketed a $100,000 bonus in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program. The bonus was awarded to the driver who finished highest among Xfinity Series regulars Bell, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Gray Gaulding.

Christopher Bell leads the pack on a restart on lap 189 during Xfinity Allied Steel Buildings 200 win at Dover International Speedway on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Bell, who won at Dover for the second-straight time was quick to credit his pit crew in Victory Lane as he celebrated his third victory of the season and the 11th of his career.

“We’ve had really fast race cars, but we just haven’t been able to capitalize on it,” said Bell, who celebrated by doing a burnout at the start/finish line before handing the checkered flag to a young race fan in the grandstands. “This one is really out to my pit crew. They did a great job of getting me out first there where I could control the restarts.

“I knew if they put me out front, we were going to be tough to beat. This (50th anniversary gold Monster Trophy) is one of the coolest trophies that we get to have.”

Justin Allgaier survived a late brush with the outside wall in turn two to finish second in the 200-lap event, with Tyler Reddick, Custer and Chase Briscoe rounding out the top-five finishers.

For Custer, it turned out to be a tough-luck finish after he led a race-high 156 laps and swept the first two 45-lap stages of the race after capturing the pole position on Saturday morning.

“It’s really frustrating to lead that many laps and you just can’t give up your track position here,” Custer said. “Everybody wants to win at Dover, that’s why it’s so frustrating, but we had a great Mustang. It was all about track position.

“This is about the hardest track to pass at that we go to. It’s just frustrating to do so good and not being able to take advantage of it with a great car. We had so much speed and we could compete with those guys, but we need to figure out a way to beat them when we can.”

Bell’s day turned golden after Kaz Grala brought out the first caution flag of the race on lap 154. Grala’s car got loose between the first and second turns and was tapped in the rear by John Hunter Nemecheck, sending him spinning off the second corner.

During the ensuing pit stops in the yellow-flag period on lap 156, Bell managed to beat Custer off pit road by about a foot after they both got four new tires and fuel.

From there it was all about holding all challengers, especially after a pair of late-race restarts.

Allgaier actually bounced off the second-turn wall in the closing laps trying in vain to chase down Bell.

“The car took a beating and kept going,” Allgaier said. “Our car was good today, it wasn’t great. I wanted to be on the track battling Christopher (Bell) at the end, but we were just off a little bit all day. It’s disappointing. These guys put in a ton of effort.

“All in all, still a good day … top two. We’ve had the speed we just haven’t had the luck so today we had some luck with it and we were just a little bit short of Victory Lane.”

The race was slowed three times for accidents, though none appeared to be too serious.

Zane Smith put an exclamation mark on the finish, as he spun down the frontstretch and backed into the wall while taking the checkered flag in eighth place.

Bell’s celebratory burnout, on the other hand, was intentional.

“We keep working,” Bell said. “Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had really fast race cars but we just haven’t been able to capitalize on it.

“This place (Dover) you can pass during long green flag runs and it’s one of my favorite race tracks because you can move around and find where you can run, but on the short runs it’s pretty difficult to make anything happen because there’s so much grip on the bottom.”

It made it that much easier when a speedy pit crew put him out front and on his way to a memorable triumph at Dover.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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