Bell to race for an­other na­tional cham­pi­onship

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer AP Auto Rac­ing Writer

Crashes in con­sec­u­tive weeks had backed Christo­pher Bell into a cor­ner that jeop­ar­dized his strong rookie sea­son in the Xfin­ity Se­ries.

But Bell thrives in must­win mo­ments, and Satur­day at ISM Race­way out­side of Phoenix was an­other ex­am­ple of the young driver de­liv­er­ing when ev­ery­thing was on the line. Bell won — the only re­sult that would have ad­vanced him into the cham­pi­onship round — and will now race for a sec­ond NASCAR na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Bell won the Truck Se­ries ti­tle last year, moved to the Xfin­ity Se­ries this sea­son in a Toy­ota from Joe Gibbs Rac­ing, and his vic­tory Satur­day was a se­ries-high sev­enth of the sea­son. Had he not won, though, two weeks of bad luck would have wiped out his sea­son.

“The pres­sure was on and I am just one of those guys who does re­ally well in those sit­u­a­tions,” Bell said. “Ev­ery­thing is on the line and I am just thank­ful I pulled through for my team. These guys are the ones who build the race cars that are go­ing to win, whether I am driv­ing them or not.”

The Gibbs or­ga­ni­za­tion is in­deed the most dom­i­nant in the Xfin­ity Se­ries but was in dan­ger of miss­ing out on the ti­tle race at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way had Bell not won Satur­day. Bell started the race sev­enth in the stand­ings and the win gives him a chance to add more hard­ware to his dec­o­rated first sea­son. Bell’s seven wins are the most for an Xfin­ity reg­u­lar since Dale Earn­hardt Jr. also won seven times in 1998.

The cham­pi­onship four next Satur­day are Bell, Cole Custer, Daniel Hem­ric and Tyler Red­dick. The group rep­re­sents all three man­u­fac­tur­ers with a Ford driver, Toy­ota driver and two Chevro­let driv­ers, and come from four teams. Bell drives for Gibbs, Custer for Ste­wartHaas Rac­ing, Hem­ric for Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing and Red­dick for JR Mo­tor­sports.

While Red­dick did move on to in­sure a JR Mo­tor­sports car will race for the ti­tle, the or­ga­ni­za­tion missed out with driv­ers Justin All­gaier and El­liott Sadler. All­gaier was the reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pion with five vic­to­ries, but a late-race tire prob­lem spoiled his fin­ish and he dropped be­low the cut­off line.

Sadler, who was sec­ond in the stand­ings at the start of the race, fin­ished 11th and also dropped out of con­tention. The vet­eran is re­tir­ing af­ter next week’s fi­nale and had hoped to close his NASCAR stint with a shot at the cham­pi­onship that has eluded him his en­tire ca­reer.

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