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Happy in Xfinity, Christopher Bell sees no Cup openings yet at Gibbs

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Christopher Bell doesn’t know what he will be doing next season yet in NASCAR, and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver surprisingly seems unworried about his timetable for reaching the Cup Series.

“If I ever make it to Cup,” Bell told reporters Friday afternoon

Wait, “if”?

“I mean, yeah, unless you know something I don’t,” Bell said with a smile.

It was a decidedly different tone from Bell, who made some headlines eight months ago when he talked openly about wanting to be in Cup by 2019 because he didn’t “want to waste another year of my prime” in Xfinity.

But Bell, 24, spent much of his media session Friday singing the praises of his enjoyment of racing the Xfinity Series and seemed content if he remains on the circuit for another year. Is there a new attitude this season?

“Yeah, I’m trying to figure out how to word this,” he said with a laugh. “So obviously I want to go to Cup, right? But I never meant that phrase as, ‘I don’t want to be in Xfinity,’ because I love the Xfinity Series, and like I just said, I love the cars and feel they race well.

“Ultimately I get to drive race cars for a living, so that’s really cool.”

The status and career path of Bell has been an open question that has drawn much scrutiny. Officials from Toyota Racing Development, which has invested millions in helping groom the dirt racing prodigy, have said numerous times that Bell will remain in the Toyota camp for his inevitable promotion to Cup.

That’s prompted speculation because there are only five viable Toyota seats – four of which belong to Joe Gibbs Racing, which is fielding Bell in the Xfinity for the second consecutive season.

The only JGR driver in a contract year is Erik Jones, who recently told NBCSports.com that he is working on an extension with the team. The only other option would be Leavine Family Racing, whose No. 95 Toyota is filled by Matt DiBenedetto this season.

Bell said he hasn’t asked about his 2020 schedule yet and is unconcerned.

“It’s still early in the year,” the Norman, Okla., native said. “Normally, I don’t figure out where I land until August-ish. So we’re definitely early in the year to know where I’m going to be.”

And when he does know, he isn’t expecting to take Jones’ spot or anyone else at Gibbs.

“I never really pictured Erik being my hole,” Bell said. “If you look at the Gibbs camp now, I can’t picture anyone being my hole because all four cars are running exceptional now. Watch any of the races, all four are right in the top five. I don’t know where I’m going to land. I’m just enjoying the ride now.”

But is the conjecture distracting for the rising star who set an Xfinity rookie record with seven victories last season and has a win this season?

“It’s cool, right,” Bell said. “I’m honored that people want to know where I’m going to go. That’s better than people not caring. That’s really cool. But I don’t know. I wouldn’t say distractions because it kind of goes in one ear and out the other, so it’s not anything I have input in or can control that. The only thing I can control is finishing races and hopefully winning races.”

And enjoying himself.

“Honestly, I love these Xfinity cars,” he said. “They are a ton of fun to drive. And a lot of fun to race, too. I feel like the Xfinity races have been excellent.”

 

Report: Justin Allgaier returning to JR Motorsports in 2020

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Justin Allgaier confirmed to Catchfence.com Friday that he will remain with JR Motorsports in 2020.

It will be Allgaier’s fifth season in the Xfinity Series with JRM.

“I will be back next year. Same deal,” Allgaier told Catchfence.com “Everything is good. We’re doing the same thing next that we are doing right now.”

Allgaier, 33, is fourth is the point standings entering this weekend’s race at Road America (3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN).

Allgaier is the only driver in the top six in points without a win this year.

 

Xfinity Series practice report from Road America

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Christopher Bell was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice Friday at Road America.

Bell posted a top speed of 108.562 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by Matt DiBenedetto (108.106 mph), AJ Allmendinger (108.091), Justin Haley (107.927) and Cole Custer (107.895).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps in the session with 19.

The session was stopped with about 50 minutes left for a hard crash by Brandon Jones exiting Turn 11. Jones will go to a backup car for Saturday’s race.

Just before Jones’ wreck, the left-rear truck arm mount broke on Jeremy Clements‘ No. 51 Chevrolet and his car stalled on the track.

The red flag was brought out for the second time when Preston Pardus’ No. 43 Chevrolet stalled on the track. His car then stalled a second time in the final minute of the session.

The session had a third red flag when Josh Williams‘ car stalled on the track.

Click here for the practice report.

First Practice

Bell was fastest, posting a top speed of 108.559 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by defending race winner Justin Allgaier (108.530 mph), Cindric (108.346), DiBenedetto (108.139) and Allmendinger (107.967).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps with 14.

The session was stopped once for debris with 35 minutes left in the session.

Minor incidents in the session included Noah Gragson briefly going off course and a spin by Dexter Bean.

Click here for the practice report.

Updated entry lists for Xfinity, Truck Series this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 4 Chevrolet for his second start of the year.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

There are only 29 Trucks listed for the entry list. A full field would be 32 trucks.

Alex Tagliani is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota for his first start of the year.

Dylan Lupton is entered in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 20 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

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Friday schedule for Xfinity Series at Road America

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series hits the track today with two practices at Road America in preparation for Saturday’s race.

The wunderground.com forecast for Friday calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 69 degrees and a 10% chance of rain during the day.

Here is today’s schedule at Road America:

(All times are Eastern)

10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3:35 – 4:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)