Column By: AMY HARROP / RPW – LOUDON, NH – The NASCAR XFINITY Series returned to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday with the Lake’s Region 200.
Former NASCAR Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski, captured the pole for the 200-lap race. But, after arriving to the pre-race driver’s meeting late, Keselowski was sent to the rear of the pack for the initial start. This left Christopher Bell and Ryan Preece on the front row.
Christopher Bell ran away with the lead as Keselowski began his voyage through the field. Keselowski had made his way from last to 17th in just 8 laps, but the leaders were already lapping the field by lap 13.
Tyler Reddick and Mike Harmon both had tire troubles within a 10-lap span at the end of the first stage, with both drivers coming down to the pits after suffering from right front tires going down.
Christopher Bell ran away with the stage 1 win, capturing ten points and one bonus playoff point. The stage win was his third of the 2018 season.
After making his way into the top five at the end of the stage, Keselowski came out of the pits on top, going from last to first in under 50 laps.
Connecticut native, Ryan Preece, powered into the lead on the restart. Keselowski, the only previous NHMS XFINITY winner in the field, was on the move, stealing the top spot back on lap 57.
A caution was waved on lap 70 for debris on the backstretch. None of the leaders pitted, but Ryan Reed and Austin Dillon took advantage of the caution to make adjustments to their cars.
Ross Chastain got hard into the turn 4 wall on lap 79, followed by Ryan Truex taking a spin on the backstretch on lap 84 after making contact with the #16 of Ryan Reed.
Brad Keselowski was able to hold off his competitors, Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece, for the stage 2 win.
Ryan Preece had a wedge wrench left on his car after his stage break pit stop, causing the driver to fall back to 21st on the leaderboard. With the leaders pitting, Elliott Sadler powered into the track lead.
Christopher Bell regained the lead on lap 119, with Brad Keselowski filing into the runner-up spot behind him on lap 125.
Keselowski was all over Bell for the lead by lap 132, taking over the top spot on lap 145.
The #19 of Brandon Jones began the round of green flag pit stops on lap 160, with Keselowski, Preece and Bell following suit on lap 164.
Jeremy Clements slammed into the barrels at the pit entrance on lap 167, leading to an extended red flag.
The field went back to green on lap 173, but Chad Finchum took a hit into the turn 2 wall on lap 178 after making contact with Garrett Smithley, leading to a late-race caution.
Chris Bell took over the lead on the restart with lap 182. Brad Keselowski was quickly closing in on him, making his way to Bell’s bumper with just 5 to go.
Keselowski lost ground with one lap to go, powering Bell into his second consecutive victory in the XFINITY Series.
“That’s the bottom line, I’ve got great race cars and that’s what we’ve been able to capitalize on these past couple of weeks,” Bell shared with the media after his big win.
The future looks bright for Bell, who held off a former Cup champion for his first win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
As Bell continues his XFINITY journey next weekend at Iowa Speedway, Keselowski will be going for the win on Sunday in the Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301.
We hope to see you there!
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – Lakes Region 200
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Loudon, New Hampshire
Saturday, July 21, 2018
1. (2) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 200.
2. (1) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200.
3. (3) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 200.
4. (5) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 200.
5. (14) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (8) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 200.
7. (7) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (10) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (4) Cole Custer, Ford, 200.
10. (11) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200.
11. (6) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (24) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200.
13. (13) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 200.
14. (16) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 200.
15. (17) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200.
16. (19) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 200.
17. (15) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 200.
18. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200.
19. (12) Johnny Sauter(i), Chevrolet, 199.
20. (25) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 199.
21. (34) Chad Finchum #, Toyota, 198.
22. (22) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 198.
23. (21) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 198.
24. (29) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 198.
25. (9) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 196.
26. (20) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 196.
27. (35) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, 195.
28. (27) David Starr, Chevrolet, 195.
29. (37) Bayley Currey(i), Toyota, 190.
30. (40) Angela Ruch, Chevrolet, 188.
31. (39) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 182.
32. (28) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, Accident, 176.
33. (30) Donald Theetge, Chevrolet, 172.
34. (33) Josh Bilicki #, Toyota, Ignition, 165.
35. (26) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Engine, 130.
36. (23) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Brakes, 113.
37. (38) Carl Long, Chevrolet, Brakes, 62.
38. (32) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Vibration, 57.
39. (36) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 32.
40. (31) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 22.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 99.616 mph.
Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 07 Mins, 27 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.416 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 33 laps.
Lead Changes: 13 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski(i) 0; C. Bell # 1-48; R. Preece 49; B. Keselowski(i) 50-53; R. Preece 54-57; B. Keselowski(i) 58-83; R. Preece 84; B. Keselowski(i) 85-93; E. Sadler 94-119; C. Bell # 120-145; B. Keselowski(i) 146-163; D. Hemric 164-166; B. Keselowski(i) 167-181; C. Bell # 182-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bell # 3 times for 93 laps; B. Keselowski(i) 5 times for 72 laps; E. Sadler 1 time for 26 laps; R. Preece 3 times for 6 laps; D. Hemric 1 time for 3 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,18,42,21,22,19,00,7,2,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,21,18,19,42,1,60,20,39,2