In the playoff opener for the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Richmond International Raceway (VA), Christopher Bell won in dominate fashion to get win #7 of the year. Austin Cindric started on the pole and led until Bell took it easily on lap seven. Bell extended his lead to nearly eight seconds before a caution came out on lap 50.
At the end of stage one, it was Bell grabbing the green-checkered flag over Cindric. The top-10 was all playoff drivers, with Ryan Sieg and Tyler Reddick missing stage points. Reddick, the regular season champion, had a slow tire leak and finished 19th at the conclusion of the first stage.
Xfinity: Bell Dominates In Playoff Opener
Brandon Jones led the field to the start of stage two, but gave way to Cindric after four laps. The lead was brief once again for Cindric, as Bell regained the top spot two laps later. This time it was Cole Custer who was tasked with running down the leader. Although it didn’t happen as fast, Bell opened up a sizable gap once again.
When stage two was complete, it was Bell sweeping the stages for the sixth time this season. Custer, who finished 2nd in the stage, was the only car even remotely in range to strike for the lead. Reddick finished 13th, meaning he would not receive any stage points for the night.
Mid-way through the final stage, Custer closed the gap to under half a second. It only lasted a few laps before it gradually grew again to 1.7 seconds at the end of the race. Cindric was able to catch Custer and make the pass late to finish in the runner-up position.
Despite three single-car cautions in the first stage, the remaining 175 lap were only slowed by the stage two caution. Out of the 250 laps, Bell led 238 of them, the most in his career in one race. The win is huge for Bell as it guarantees him a spot in the next round, meaning they don’t have to worry about the Charlotte Roval next weekend.
After a frustrating race, finishing 15th one-lap down, John Hunter Nemechek showed his anger with non-playoff driver, Joe Graf Jr. Nemechek made contact with the rear bumper of Graf Jr. after the checkered flag causing both drivers to spin.
“Joe Graf moved us out of the way there at the end,” Nemechek said after. “He has to earn some respect. It’s just uncalled for to run into someones quarter panel and about turn them on the last lap.”
Nemechek and Justin Haley (17th) were the only playoff drivers that did not finish on the lead lap.
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Standings|
|1||Christopher Bell||7||1 Win|
|Clinched into the next round|
|Cutoff for Round 2|
|12||John H. Nemechek||0||-21|