Saturday, September 22, 2018

Christopher Bell Wins Xfinity Series Playoff Opener at Richmond

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
by Carol D’Agostino

When NASCAR playoff time rolls around, the competition always ratchets up a bit, but when the NASCAR Xfinity Series ushered in the playoffs for the first time at Richmond Raceway, the sense of anticipation rose to a whole new level. All eyes were on the 12 playoff drivers and the drivers recording their firsts and lasts, including international drivers Alon Day and Katherine Legge, Elliott Sadler, who is retiring after this season, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was doing a one-off race to complete a sponsorship commitment.

Despite the numerous story lines going into the race, it was Christopher Bell who stole the headlines as the 38th Annual GoBowling 250 winner. Bell started from the pole position and led five times throughout the race for a total of 67 laps. This is Bell’s fifth win this season, and he swept Richmond for this year, having won the Xfinity race back here in April.

Bell enters the Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway without any pressure.

“For me it feels better that I don’t have to stress about getting crashed or crashing. I can be aggressive, go race and try to win,” Bell said.

For a majority of the race it appeared as though Dale Earnhardt Jr. would take the checkers. He dominated the second half of the race, earning a career race high of 96 laps led, and eventually finished fourth. In the post-race media center interview, Earnhardt Jr. talked about how much he enjoyed leading the race and especially how happy he was to have his wife Amy and daughter Isla Rose with him on pit road.

“I was thrilled to have Isla there. She won’t remember what happened today, but if I never run another race, I got to have her at one event. And we got a picture at the car before the race that she’ll be able to have the rest of her life,” he said.

Rounding out the top-five finishers were Ross Chastain, last week’s winner, followed by Daniel Hemric in third, Earnhardt Jr. in fourth, and Matt Tifft in fifth. With the win, Bell goes into next week’s Roval in the top spot in the drivers’ standings, followed by Daniel Hemric in second, Justin Allgaier in third, Ross Chastain in fourth and Elliott Sadler in fifth.

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