Christopher Bell wins Kentucky Xfinity race after starting from rear

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Christopher Bell led the final 17 laps to win Friday’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway after starting from the rear of the field.

It is Bell’s second win of his rookie year.

Bell passed Justin Allgaier to take the lead with 17 to go and held off Daniel Hemric all the way to the checkered flag.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had to start in 40th after changing the tires on his No. 20 Toyota following a spin in qualifying.

“That was pretty special, man,” Bell told NBCSN. “I keep making mistakes and I’ve been feeling really bad for my team. Joe Gibbs Racing has been working really hard to build really fast race cars and I made another mistake there in qualifying, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get back on this repave. … It was just really working really good on the bottom of (Turns) 3 and 4 there. Hats off to Daniel, I know he’s been trying really hard to get a NASCAR win here for a long time.”

The top five was completed by Kyle Busch, Cole Custer and Allgaier.

The win is the third of Bell’s career and gives him 10 top 10s through 17 races.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: John Hunter Nemechek

MORE: race results and point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: John Hunter Nemechek managed to finish seventh after he lost power during a caution in the final stage, resulting in a battery change that put him a lap down … Tyler Reddick finished sixth, rebounding from two consecutive DNFs … Ryan Reed placed eighth for his second top 10 in nine races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Blake Jones was spun by Josh Williams on Lap 100 for the first caution for an incident. Jones finished 25th … On the following restart, Brandon Jones spun on the backstretch and hit the inside wall. He finished 36th … Ty Majeski placed 27th after spinning through the infield grass on Lap 132.

NOTABLE: Elliott Sadler finished 12th. He started the season with 12 consecutive top 10s. He has finished outside the top 10 in three of the last five races. He is now tied with Daniel Hemric for the points lead with 608 points.

WHAT’S NEXT: Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at 4 p.m. ET on July 21 on NBCSN.

Xfinity practice report at Kentucky

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SPARTA, Kentucky – Ty Majeski posted the fastest lap in Thursday’s final practice for the Xfinity Series at Kentucky Speedway.

Majeski ran a lap of 181.714  mph to pace the field. He was followed by Christopher Bell (181.616 mph), Daniel Hemric (180.162), Kyle Busch (179.970) and Matt Tifft (179.856).

Click here for final practice report

Ross Chastain had minimal damage after slight contact with the wall. There were no other incidents in the session.

The series races at 8 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN.

FIRST PRACTICE

With a speed of 180.886 mph John Hunter Nemechek posted the fastest single lap in Thursday’s practice for the Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway (Friday, 8 pm, NBCSN).

He beat Brandon Jones (180.493 mph) by .065 seconds.

Daniel Hemric (179.910), Matt Tifft (179.211) and Cup regular Kyle Busch (178.577) rounded out the top five.

Ryan Reed brought out the only caution of the session when he spun harmlessly in turn four with less than 10 minutes remaining. Reed was just outside the top five with the sixth fastest speed of 178.524 mph.

Tyler Reddick ran the most laps in the first practice at 36. His top speed of 177.725 mph was 14th best.

Click here for practice report

Christopher Bell wins USAC race in Oklahoma; Ty Majeski wins Slinger Nationals

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Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell won his 22nd USAC National Midget race Tuesday night in a 30-lap feature at Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Oklahoma.

Bell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma, won for Keith Kunz, giving him his 100th victory as an owner in the series. It was Bell’s first race at the track despite having grown up roughly 60 minutes southwest of the facility.

“It’s just really cool to see how many people were here,” Bell told USACracing.com.  “USAC hasn’t been here for a long time.  Honestly, Oklahoma’s dying for professional motorsports, so it’s nice for USAC to be able to come in here.”

In the series’ first race in Oklahoma since 1975, Bell moved into 25th on the all-time wins list, tying Bobby East and Shorty Templeman.

Meanwhile, fellow Xfinity Series driver Ty Majeski claimed victory in the 39th Slinger Nationals at Slinger Super Speedway in Slinger, Wisconsin.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver started 12th and beat Dennis Prunty by 2.8 seconds.

Majeski is a native of Seymour, Wisconsin.

“This one’s up there just because it’s home,” Majeski said according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s our turf.

“These guys come from the South, and we’re able to defend our turf. Obviously it feels good to go down south and beat those guys down on their turf too. But to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best all around the country.”

Erik Jones, who won his first Cup race last weekend at Daytona, left the race after 66 laps due to engine failure.

Bell and Majeski will return to NASCAR action this Friday at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m ET on NBCSN). Jones will compete in Saturday’s Cup race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Friday 5: Here’s how to address NASCAR’s ‘issue with star power’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders created a hubbub Thursday when he cited an “issue with star power” as among the reasons for a 10 percent decline in attendance at the company’s six NASCAR events from March to May.

So if the sport is looking for someone to build around, how about …

Kyle Busch.

No other active driver elicits as a visceral reaction as Busch. Many heartily booed him after he won last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, while his fans cheered, creating a confluence of noise.

Detractors seethed after Busch spun Kyle Larson to win, conveniently forgetting that only seconds earlier Larson’s contact sent Busch into the wall and out of the lead.

After retrieving the checkered flag, Busch walked to the camera and rubbed his eye to mock those crying about his victory.

The boos continued and Busch taunted those fans, telling them: “If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”

Busch, who is tied with Kevin Harvick with a series-high five wins this year, has long accepted there will be a vociferous segment of the fan base that detests him. He never had a chance. He notes that early in his Cup career he was booed as much for being Kurt Busch’s little brother as anything. Kyle Busch’s intensity and antics infuriated some fans and made his backers more determined in their support.

Busch knows he likely will never win most popular driver but isn’t the main goal to win championships?

“There you go,” he said.

As for wearing the symbolic black hat, Busch doesn’t worry about it.

“I’ve had the black hat for a long, long time, so it doesn’t bother me as long as it doesn’t bother my sponsors and they can accept that, as well, too, and … know who I am as a person outside the race car rather than the one minute tidbits of TV that you get from a guy on television,” he said.

This topic of star power is not new. International Speedway Corp. has cited declines in ticket sales in the past to the absence of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Thursday, Saunders cited weather as impacting attendance at some tracks, added: “We still have an issue with star power and hopefully this stable of young drivers coming along will start to win and build their brands.”

Ryan Blaney scoffed at the notion that the weight should be just on the young drivers.

“How many winners this year? Six. Come on now,” the 24-year-old Blaney said. “You can’t just put that on the young guys for not winning. That’s a lot of other people that aren’t winning too.”

Ultimately, the best selling point for the sport is going to be the racing. Have more races and finishes like last weekend will help the sport but it will take more than that.

2. A tale of two trips

Daytona in February is about hope. Daytona in July is about reality.

When NASCAR arrived here in February to begin the season, Hendrick Motorsports was hopeful of getting past its “rough” 2017, Matt Kenseth was not at the track and numerous driver changes provided their teams with hope.

With Cup teams back on the beach, Hendrick Motorsports continues to search for its first win, Kenseth again is not around — but will be back at Kentucky for Roush Fenway Racing — and four of the drivers with new rides this season are in a playoff spot with nine races left in the regular season.

The gear celebrating Hendrick Motorsports’ next win — which will be its 250th in Cup — has been in storage since Kasey Kahne won at Indianapolis. That was 33 races ago.

Hendrick Motorsports entered the season with two new drivers. Alex Bowman took over the No. 88 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired, and William Byron climbed into the No. 24, taking Kahne’s spot with the organization. Hendrick also entered with questions about sponsor Lowe’s (it was announced a month after the Daytona 500 that Lowe’s would not return to Jimmie Johnson’s team for 2019).

With Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch dominating, there have been few chances for Hendrick Motorsports or other teams to excel. Also, Hendrick and many other Chevrolet teams have struggled with the new Camaro this season.

While Hendrick has seen progress — Alex Bowman has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes the past two weeks for the first time this season and Chase Elliott has three top 10s in the past four races — there have been challenges. Elliott has led only eight laps this season. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson has led two laps this year. Hendrick’s four drivers have combine to lead 106 laps — 65 by Bowman.

At Roush Fenway Racing, the struggles continue. Matt Kenseth’s run in the No. 6 car for Trevor Bayne did not lead to significant improvement.

“We’ve had some tough conversations these last few weeks,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is battling for a playoff spot. “I think I’ve been pretty vocal in the shop and sometimes whether it be in an interview or on the radio probably when I shouldn’t, and I definitely need to respect all of our guys at the shop that are working hard and trying to provide new stuff for us. We just haven’t got that new stuff as quick as what we wanted.”

Drivers in new places who are in a playoff spot heading into Saturday night’s race are Blaney (Wood Brothers to Team Penske), Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports to Stewart-Haas Racing), Erik Jones (Furniture Row Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing) and Bowman (no full-time ride to Hendrick).

3. Slide job!

Christopher Bell is enjoying how prevalent the slide job is becoming in NASCAR. It’s a skill Bell and Kyle Larson learned while racing sprint cars on dirt. Other drivers have picked it up, especially at tracks where a high groove is the preferred line.

At those tracks, a driver charges into the corner, cuts to the bottom and lets the car drift up the banking to pass a car and stop that car’s momentum.

Larson attempted the move on Kyle Busch but it didn’t work and Busch went on to win. Noah Gragson tried it on Brett Moffitt on the last lap of the Camping World Truck race at Iowa Speedway but Moffitt got back by.

“It’s cool to me to see that coming to fruition,” Bell said of he move. “Like Iowa, man, the truck race, the Xfinity race, everyone was sliding each other, and I think it’s passing, right, so you get more passes. A guy passes someone going in, and then another guy passes someone coming out. I think it’s exciting to see more guys using it and it becoming more common in NASCAR.”

But that also means drivers are learning how to defend the move better. So what will Bell do?

Hopefully do it some more, right?” he said. “It’s going to be tough here at Daytona, and Kentucky (the groove) is on the bottom, so I won’t get to do it anymore there. But it’s just another trick in the bag, right? So if you get the opportunity to pull it, I’m going to do it.”

4.  Less practice

Rain canceled Thursday’s final Cup practice before any car could run a lap at speed. That left teams with only the 50-minute opening session to prepare for Friday’s qualifying and Saturday night’s race.

Should that be the norm for next season? In the Xfinity Series, only 10 cars went out in the final practice session. Are two sessions needed?

“I think if you had, say, one practice but it was an hour and 20 (minutes) long, I think you’d be fine with that,” Kyle Busch said. “I think that would be enough and that would be beneficial to being able to go straight into a qualifying and into the race. Fifty (minutes) may be a tick short for what some guys want to do.”

5. Will the streak continue?

There has been a different driver win each of the last eight July Daytona races. The streak started with Kevin Harvick in 2010 and he was followed by David Ragan, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

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Kyle Larson wins Pennsylvania sprint car race; Kasey Kahne third

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Kyle Larson won the A feature of the Pennsylvania Speedweek race at Grandview Speedway on Tuesday night.

Greg Hodnett was second. He was followed by Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart. Former Truck series racer Rico Abreu was 11th. Christopher Bell placed 17th.