Bell races to 5th Xfin­ity win

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By DOUG ALDEN

Christo­pher Bell moved into a tie for the NASCAR Xfin­ity Se­ries vic­tory lead with five, dom­i­nat­ing Satur­day in hot con­di­tions at New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way. Bell led 186 of the 200 laps in Joe Gibbs Rac­ing’s No. 20 Toy­ota and fin­ished more than four sec­onds ahead of Cole Custer.

LOUDON, N.H. — Christo­pher Bell moved into a tie for the NASCAR Xfin­ity Se­ries vic­tory lead with five, dom­i­nat­ing Satur­day in hot con­di­tions at New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way.

Bell led 186 of the 200 laps in Joe Gibbs Rac­ing’s No. 20 Toy­ota — only los­ing the lead when he pit­ted on Lap 33 — and fin­ished more than four sec­onds ahead of Cole Custer, the Ford driver who won last week­end at Ken­tucky Speed­way for his fifth vic­tory of the sea­son. Bell has 13 ca­reer se­ries vic­to­ries.

“The race cars win the races. The driv­ers just kind of are along for the ride,” Bell said, giv­ing credit to crew chief Ja­son Rat­cliff. “Ja­son keeps giv­ing me great race cars. That’s what the key is.”

As happy as Rat­cliff was to see the 24-year-old driver re­main hum­ble, he said Bell has had a lot to do within his own suc­cess.

“I’ve had a lot of good race cars but couldn’t win races in them with­out the right guy be­hind the wheel,” Rat­cliff said. “He’s be­ing pa­tient. He’s do­ing a good job of ex­e­cut­ing each and ev­ery week and build­ing on that. We’ll just see what to­mor­row holds, but I think he’s got good things in store for him.”

Custer lost the lead on the first lap af­ter start­ing from the pole.

“I wasn’t driv­ing the car right at the start of the race, so I kind of got be­hind on ad­just­ments,” Custer said. “I wish we’d had an­other cau­tion so we could catch up to him.”

Justin Al­gaier was third in a Chevro­let. Se­ries points leader Tyler Red­dick was fourth in a Chevy, and Paul Me­nard fol­lowed in a Ford.

Har­ri­son Bur­ton was run­ning fifth for JGR un­til the 154th lap, when he got bumped from be­hind by Me­nard and spun out and struck the wall. Bur­ton, the son former NASCAR driver Jeff Bur­ton, was able to get back on the track and fin­ished 29th. He and Me­nard had a lengthy con­ver­sa­tion at their cars af­ter the race.

“He hit me twice, and I hit him once,” Me­nard said. “He was mad at me for hit­ting him that one time.”

The 18-year-old Bur­ton didn’t think Me­nard’s re­tal­i­a­tion was jus­ti­fied.

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