Christopher Bell wins at Phoenix to clinch spot in Xfinity title race

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Facing a must-win situation, Christopher Bell did just that, winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at ISM Raceway to clinch a spot in the Championship 4 at Miami.

Bell entered the race 34 points out from the final transfer spot. He started 38th after his No. 20 Toyota did not get through inspection in time to qualify.

The rookie marched through the field and took the lead for good on Lap 108 when he passed John Hunter Nemechek.

Bell led 94 laps and beat Daniel Hemric, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric and Ryan Preece.

It is Bell’s seventh win of the season, a rookie record.

“I’ll be honest after (DNFs at) Kansas and Texas I kind of just accepted we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Bell told NBC. “Just came over here with a ‘Let’s have fun attitude.’ … We didn’t really make our way up front that fast. I kind of got stalled out once I got into the top 15. I knew this thing was really fast because yesterday in practice it was really good. That clean air just meant so much. My pit crew did an amazing job … We’re going to (Miami), baby.”

Justin Allgaier, who won five races this season, was eliminated from title contention. He placed 24th, one laps down after he lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go.

Elliott Sadler, who will not compete full-time after the end of the season, was also eliminated.

Austin Cindric and Matt Tifft were the other drivers eliminated.

The Championship 4 will be Cole Custer, Bell, Hemric and Tyler Reddick

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Daniel Hemric earned his fifth runner-up finish without a Xfinity win … Matt Tifft placed third, his best result since he finished second at Road America … Austin Cindric earned his third top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Akinori Ogata extended the series’ streak of incidents on Lap 1 to three races when he wrecked in Turn 3. He finished 33rd … After winning the first two stages, Justin Allgaier placed 24th, one lap down. He suffered damage from contact with John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 145. He then lost his brakes with about 20 laps to go, but finished the race.

NOTABLE: Chevrolet clinched its 19th manufacturer championship in the series at the start of the race … Christopher Bell’s seven wins are the most by a non-Cup driver in Xfinity since Dale Earnhardt Jr. won seven times in 1998.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”Disappointment. At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered it was going to be a great day. Ultimately at the end, getting ourselves in that bad position, getting caught up in that little of a crash and losing brakes. At that point it was survival, gain as many points as we can gain.” – Justin Allgaier after he was eliminated for title contention.

WHAT’S NEXT: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 17 on NBCSN

 

Xfinity practice report from Phoenix

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – John Hunter Nemechek had the fastest lap in Friday’s final Xfinity practice at ISM Raceway.

Nemechek had a lap of 133.072 mph. He was followed by Christopher Bell (132.402 mph), Austin Cindric (131.858), Ryan Preece (131.752) and Matt Tifft (131.685).

First practice

Christopher Bell was the fastest in the first two Xfinity practice sessions Friday at ISM Raceway.

Bell had a lap of 132.304 mph. He was followed by Ryan Preece (132.110 mph), Cole Custer (131.699), Matt Tifft (131.690) and Daniel Hemric 131.670.

Click here for practice report

The final Xfinity practice session will be from 4:35 – 5:25 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Xfinity practice report at Texas

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Ryan Truex swept Friday with the fastest lap (187.780 mph) in final practice on the heels of his fastest lap in the first session.

He beat Brandon Jones (187.689) by .014 seconds.

Shane Lee (187.676), Cole Custer (187.474) and Christopher Bell (187.454) rounded out the top five.

Josh Bilicki, Joey Gase and David Starr hit the wall in separate incidents. Bilicki does not have a backup available, but reported that he was looking for a car to borrow.

Elliott Sadler had the quickest 10-lap average at 186.190 mph.

Fellow playoff contenders Justin Allgaier (185.862) and Daniel Hemric (185.622) lined up behind him.

Click here for the practice report.

First Practice

Ryan Truex posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session for the Xfinity race at Texas with a speed of 187.162 mph.

He beat Daniel Hemric (186.832 mph) by .051 seconds.

Elliott Sadler (186.580), Cole Custer (186.387) and Matt Tifft (186.130) rounded out the top five.

Ryan Reed, Morgan Shepherd and Austin Cindric all hit the wall in separate incidents during the session. Reed and Cindric will go to backup cars. Shepherd does not have a backup available.

Brandon Brown (177.024) and Quin Houff (171.124) were the only drivers who made at least 10 consecutive laps.

Click here for the practice report.

Breaking down the Xfinity playoff field ahead of Texas

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The Xfinity Series underwent a change in its playoff standings last week without the series even holding a race.

Daniel Hemric exited the Round of 8 opener at Kansas with a nine-point lead over Elliott Sadler. Then NASCAR handed Hemric a 10-point penalty and suspended his crew chief for one race after his No. 21 Chevrolet was found to be too low in post-race inspection.

After an off week, Hemric is second on the playoff grid, one point behind Sadler ahead of this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

That points shift came after a major shakeup on the very first lap of the Kansas race. A multi-car wreck involved playoff drivers Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Cole Custer. Only Custer was able to finish the race.

The playoff field is separated by 56 points.

Here’s a look at the eight playoff drivers ahead of the series’ trip to the Lone Star State.

Elliott Sadler ( 14 points above cut line)

Sadler, who is winless so far in his final NASCAR season, leads all drivers with seven top-10 finishes in the eight races on 1.5 mile tracks in 2018.

His best finish on a 1.5-mile track this year is third at Kansas. He’s placed fifth three times.

He’s finished in the top six in seven of the last 10 races of 2018.

Sadler has just one top five in his last 14 Xfinity starts at Texas.

“Being able to head to Texas in our current points position gives us some relief, but we still need to go out there and give it our all,” Sadler said in a media release. “As we saw in Kansas, anything can happen in these playoff races. We still have a long way to go to get to Homestead and these next two races are crucial in making the championship four.”

Daniel Hemric (+13 above cut line)

Like Sadler, Hemric is winless through 30 races. But he’s finished in the top 10 in each of the four playoff races.

He leads the playoff drivers with an average finish of 5.5 through the playoff races, up from a regular season average of 9.9. His average is 2.5 positions better than any other playoff driver.

Hemric finished third at Texas in the spring and has four top fives on 1.5-mile tracks this season, fourth among playoff drivers.

“The guys that entered the Round of 8 with a solid points advantage thought they could cruise all the way to Homestead, well, we proved that theory wrong in the opening laps of the race at Kansas Speedway,” Hemric said in a media release. “Now everyone has to legitimately race every single lap and try to get to the end of these races in order to score points and at least get an opportunity to advance. It is no different than what we have been doing all year. We need to maximize our days and maximize the weekends.”

Tyler Reddick (+11)

Reddick is winless since he won the season opener at Daytona, but the JR Motorsports driver has finished in the top 10 in six of the last nine races, including a runner-up result at Indianapolis. He has top 10s in three of the four playoff races

Reddick will make his third start at Texas. He placed 33rd and 23rd in the first two. In the spring he was caught speeding after he pitted from third place on Lap 136.

“We had some good speed here in the spring and I am very confident that we can back that up and unload with that same speed this weekend,” Reddick said in a media release. “With our position in the Round of 8 right now, we all know what we need to do and if we can have a smooth, mistake-free weekend we should be able to leave here in an even stronger points position as Homestead approaches.”

Christopher Bell (+1)

Before he crashed on Lap 1 at Kansas, Bell was riding high through the playoffs with three top fives and two wins in the first round.

Now he’s hanging by a thread above the cut line.

The rookie returns to Texas where he finished second in the spring, one of six top fives he has this year on 1.5-mile tracks.

Though he has two victories in the playoffs, he’s only won two of the last 15 stages.

Matt Tifft (-1)

When it comes to average finish among the playoff drivers, Tifft has had the biggest improvement from the regular season. Through four playoff races his average is eighth, up six spots from his regular-season average.

He’s finished in the top 10 in eight of the last 10 races.

Tifft finished sixth at Texas in the spring. His four top 10s there are tied with Dover for his most at a track.

“Since they’ve paved Texas, it’s a lot more similar to Kentucky, where it’s a one to one-and-a-half lane track,” Tifft said in a media release. “It’s very narrow at Texas. Usually at intermediate tracks we have big, sweeping wide arcs. … The challenge with Texas is we run such a hard tire that we’re pushing the car to make it as free as possible, but there really is no slip in that tire so if you push it too far you’re done.”

Justin Allgaier (-5)

The JR Motorsports veteran was on a hot streak entering the playoffs with three wins in the last six regular-season races.

But Allgaier’s fortunes have cratered since then. He crashed at Richmond and Kansas and placed 15th on the Charlotte Roval. His only positive was placing third at Dover where he won in the spring.

After an average finish of 8.7 in the regular season, his playoff average is 22nd.

Allgaier doesn’t have much to look forward to with Texas, where he has just one top-10 finish in 16 career starts. He placed 35th in the spring after his engine expired.

“Kansas definitely didn’t go the way we wanted it to and that’s on me,” Allgaier said in a media release. “We find ourselves in a hole going into these final two races in the Round of 8, but one thing is for sure, whenever this team has been down we’ve come back stronger than before. I have faith that we can finish strong this weekend and head to Phoenix with a solid shot at making it to (Miami) as part of the championship four.”

Cole Custer (-23)

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver hasn’t visited Victory Lane since last season’s finale in Miami.

He enters Texas with 12 top fives this season, including three runner-up finishes. His five top fives on 1.5-mile tracks trails only Bell (six).

Custer placed fourth at Texas in the spring. He’s finished in the top five in all three of his Texas starts, which is tied with Kyle Busch for the second most starts at Texas before a finish outside the top five.

“(Texas has) been a great track for us in the past and I’m looking forward to it probably more than any track right now,” Custer said in media release. “We definitely have to be on our game and be hunting for a win and stage points as much as possible. It’s doable to make the points up, but we’re going to really have to make some magic happen. We’ll go to Texas with a lot of speed because we always do at mile-and-a-half tracks, so there is no reason we won’t finish well as long as we don’t get involved in a wreck like last weekend.”

Austin Cindric (-43)

The rookie driver has had a harsh campaign with seven DNFs and only four top fives in the first 30 races.

In the playoffs alone, he has one top five and a top 10 in addition to his Kansas DNF and a 13th-place finish at Richmond.

He has the second worst average finish in the playoffs at 15.8.

Cindric finished ninth at Texas in the spring.

Tyler Reddick to join Richard Childress Racing in Xfinity in 2019

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Tyler Reddick will move from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing for the 2019 Xfinity Series season, RCR announced Wednesday.

Reddick’s car number, sponsor and crew chief will be announced at a later date.

Reddick, 22, drives the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in his first full-time Xfinity season and is part of the Round of 8 in the playoffs. He won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

He has 48 Xfinity starts since last year when he made 18 starts with Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

Reddick has one win, five top fives and 17 top 10s this season.

“I’m really looking forward to joining RCR in 2019,” Reddick said in a press release. “RCR has had a stout Xfinity program throughout the years with a lot of talented team members and resources available to its drivers. I want to thank JR Motorsports for what they’ve done this past year to help me advance my career and skills behind the wheel. Ultimately, my goal is to race on Sundays and I feel that by joining RCR, I can continue to race up front in the Xfinity Series while also learning from one of the top Cup programs in the garage.”

“Tyler has had a lot of success so far in his racing career, and we intend on continuing that success with him in 2019,” said Richard Childress in a press release. “I’m confident that he will do a great job representing RCR on and off the track. Tyler is a talented driver who’s not afraid to go after wins, and I look forward to seeing that drive to win on the track with us next season.”

RCR’s current full-time Xfinity driver lineup is Daniel Hemric (No. 21 Chevrolet) and Matt Tifft (No. 2 Chevrolet). Shane Lee has shared the No. 3 Chevrolet with Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan and Jeb Burton.

Hemric will drive for RCR in Cup full-time next season.