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Christopher Bell overcomes spin, battles several Cup drivers for fourth in Xfinity debut

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CONCORD, N.C. — The start of Christopher Bell‘s Xfinity Series career looked pretty bad.

There’s no other way to describe finding yourself facing the wrong direction in the frontstretch grass on Lap 3. Bell landed there after being turned by Ryan Reed exiting Turn 4.

The next 197 laps of Bell’s Xfinity debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway were stellar.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the only non-Cup Series regular to finish in the top six in the Hisense 4K TV 300.

Bell piloted his No. 18 Toyota to fourth place, in the middle of a group of drivers that included Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

“We had to fight through a lot of adversity there,” Bell said. “We would start passing guys, and we’d have to go back and start at the tail. I’m glad it was 200 laps, because we used every single bit of it. We didn’t have a lot of luck on the restarts at the beginning of the race starting on the bottom, but we got the luck when we needed it at the end.”

Those five Cup drivers – which include two series champions – have 108 combined wins in the Xfinity Series.

At 22, Bell’s NASCAR resume includes three wins and rookie of the year in the Camping World Truck Series. He also won this year’s Chili Bowl Nationals, a prestigious sprint car event.

Before Saturday, his only experience in an Xfinity car was a six-hour test session at Charlotte at the beginning of the month.

The inexperienced Bell had his hands full after Saturday’s accident as he fought his way back from outside the top 20. At the end of the first stage, he was 18th. At the end of Stage 2 on Lap 90, he was 19th

“I really figured I’d be fine when I spun out on the (third) lap as long as the splitter wasn’t torn up when I went through the grass, and thankfully, it wasn’t,” Bell said.”I really thought I could drive up through there faster and easier than what I did. Whenever you catch mediocre cars that you’re faster than and you try to just drive by them, you get caught on the inside and start slipping.

“I would get my tires too hot and that’s all she wrote for that run. If it wasn’t for the pit stops and the outside line restarts, I don’t think I would have got up there.”

Bell said on Thursday his nerves prior to his first start didn’t match those for his first Truck race two years ago at Iowa Speedway. At 20, Bell hopped into a truck for the first time on race weekend.

“Whenever Toyota came to me and said they have some Xfinity races (for me to run), I was pretty excited that they said Charlotte was the first one because Charlotte was one of my favorite racetracks whenever we got to run the Truck race in the daytime,” Bell said. “Then having the test was huge. Being able to just get seat time and just get a feel for it at the test. I don’t think I was very fast at the test. I knew I didn’t have to be the fastest car at the test, all I needed to do was get a feel for it and get some laps and come here this weekend and show speed.”

Bell’s impressive finish came with a blemish. His car was found to be too low in postrace inspection. Penalties could be announced next week.

Bell still is competing full time in the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Through five races, he is second in the 2017 points with one win. Bell will have six more chances to show off his speed in the Xfinity Series this year. His next start is June 24 at Iowa Speedway.

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NASCAR America: Comparing Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final season to Usain Bolt’s

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With Dale Earnhardt Jr. nearing the end of his Cup Series career, NBC Sports analysts Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic medalist in track and field, discussed how the twilight of Earnhardt’s career compares to that of Usain Bolt, whose running career recently ended with a hamstring injury in the last race of his career.

“I think there are a lot of similarities,” Boldon said. “I think a lot of people would have loved to have seen Junior having a better year in this his final season. It’s the same thing that happened in London. That place was sold, 60,000 people, because we wanted to see how Usain Bolt would go out. The fans were hoping he would go out with a win.”

Watch the rest of the video for Boldon’s take on NASCAR, which he is discovering this year as a member of the NASCAR on NBC team.

 

Brad Keselowski Racing to cease operations in Truck Series after this season

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Brad Keselowski Racing announced Thursday it will cease operations after this season, ending a run in the Camping World Truck Series that began in 2008.

The two-truck team fields entries for Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric.

“The Truck Series is truly special to me given my family’s ties to the history of the sport, and this decision comes with much contemplation. But, for a number of reasons, and as I plan for the long-term future, I’ve decided not to field a team in 2018,” Brad Keselowski said in a press release.

“My goal with BKR was to create a top-tier team which would allow me to give back to the sport by creating opportunities and quality experience for others, whether they be drivers, mechanics, engineers, or support personnel. With outstanding leadership from BKR GM Jeremy Thompson, assistance from Team Penske, and the support of our long-time partners Cooper Standard and Horizon Global, we were able to successfully achieve this goal. I am very proud of this and intend to do my best to help my BKR team members stay and grow in the sport. I am also incredibly appreciative of the great relationships we have developed with our partners over the years.”

The team has earned nine series wins – none this year.

“The team has also provided me with meaningful experience as a team owner,” Keselowski said. “I’ve never made it a secret that I would eventually like to be an owner at the top-level of the sport. And, while this is many years down the line, I want to start to prepare for that possibility now. Part of that preparation is seeking to develop an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that would be housed out of our 78,000 square foot facility in Statesville and ultimately help to support this vision.”

Soon after the announcement, Keselowski published a blog about the decision. He said having to tell his team it was shutting down was “one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.”

Keselowski went on to share how his time driving for Roger Penske has shaped his outlook on his future ownership goals.

“One of the things I’ve learned from Roger Penske is the importance of having a successful core business outside of motorsports,” Keselowski wrote. “If you have a successful business venture outside of motorsports, you can kind of roll with the ebbs and flows of the sport as an owner. That’s the position I want to be in, and that I’ll need to be in to be an owner who lasts in NASCAR.”

BKR joins Red Horse Racing in ending its operations in the Truck Series. Red Horse Racing competed in the first five races of the season before shutting down. The teams combined to have two of the eight drivers in last year’s Truck playoffs.

Keselowski’s decision comes after he’s repeatedly talked about the costs of owning a Truck team.

“It’s a money loser,’’ Keselowski told NBC Sports earlier this year. “Big time.’’

In 2014, Keselowski told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long his team lost $1 million that season. Keselowski also said when he would know it would be time to no longer own a Truck team.

“I’m not interested in being involved in the Truck Series if I don’t feel like we can be competitive,” Keselowski said. “My breaking point is two areas – it’s going broke and not being competitive. We have to walk that line every day with every decision we make.”

Four drivers have earned BKR’s nine wins. Ryan Blaney (four wins), Tyler Reddick (three wins), Joey Logano (one win) and Keselowski (one win). Keselowski won his only Truck Series race in 66 starts in 2014 at Bristol.

Drivers who have competed for BKR include NBCSN’s Parker Kligerman (37 races), Ryan Blaney (58 races), Dave Blaney (one race), Logano (six races), Reddick (62 races), Ross Chastain (14 races), Daniel Hemric (23 races), Austin Theriault (10 races) and Alex Tagliani (two races).

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Bristol preview and more

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to analyze this weekend’s races at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts from Stamford, Connecticut. Slugger Labbe joins here from NBC Charlotte and Parker Kligerman and Ato Boldon join from Bristol.

On today’s show:

· From London to Bristol … fresh of his duties at the IAAF Track & Field World Championships, Ato Boldon joins us live from Bristol Motor Speedway. He’ll recap his introduction to NASCAR earlier this year, including a ride along at Daytona. He’ll also share what’s on his docket this weekend in Thunder Valley.

· We’ll recap last night’s Truck Series race won by Kyle Busch, as well as both sessions of today’s Xfinity Series practice.

· American Flat Track star Shayna Texter also stops by to discuss her journey to the top level of flat-track motorcycle racing.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kyle Busch fastest in Final Xfinity practice at Bristol (video)

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Kyle Busch was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session for Friday’s Food City 300.

Busch posted a top speed of 124.315 mph around Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is attempting to sweep all three NASCAR races this weekend after he won last night’s Truck Series race.

Following Busch were Joey Logano (123.865), Brennan Poole (123.586), William Byron (123.372) and Justin Allgaier (123.308).

Tyler Reddick recorded the most laps in the session with 105.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 17th fastest in the session.

Click here for the full report.