Christopher Bell has long been known as a rising star in NASCAR. The talent on the track is obvious.
But there’s been one goal that Bell has had all along that maybe even some of his most diehard race fans didn’t know about.
“Ever since I started NASCAR racing, [winning] ‘Miles’ has been tops on my priority list,” said Bell on winning the famed Monster Trophy.
Bell was finally able to fill that empty spot in his trophy case and continue his historic season on Saturday as he cruised to a record-setting victory in the “Bar Harbor 200” presented by Sea Watch International NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at Dover International Speedway.
“Our execution has gotten a lot better,” Bell said. “I’m thankful to be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing with these fast cars. I’m sitting in one of the best race cars in the garage.”
Bell, in the No. 20 Rheem Toyota, led 110 laps to earn his sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory this year, the most in a season for a rookie in series history, eclipsing the five registered by Greg Biffle in 2001, Kyle Busch in 2004 and Carl Edwards in 2005.
“As long as this series has been around, for a guy to come in in 2018 and win six races and set records, it’s impressive,” said crew chief Jason Ratcliff. “I think that speaks for his talent level and what he’s capable of doing. I think his future in this sport is as big as he wants it to be.”
The “Bar Harbor 200” presented by Sea Watch International also served as the first elimination race of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series postseason. Eight drivers advanced to the next round while four were eliminated from the title chase.
In a duel that went down to the final laps, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric secured the final two advancement spots, while Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex and Ryan Reed were knocked out.
“I’m just thankful to move on,” said Cindric, who finished eighth in the race. “We just had to get stage points and be solid in the top 10 and that’s exactly what we did.”
In addition to Bell, Tifft and Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick remain in title contention. Earlier on Saturday, Hemric won the race’s pole position with a lap of 158.249 mph, just shy of a track record, before finishing seventh with 23 laps led.
Custer led 38 laps and finished second on Saturday, followed by Allgaier (23 laps led) in third, Ryan Preece in fourth and Spencer Gallagher in fifth.
Bell edged Custer by half a second at the finish line for his seventh career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory, and his 19th top-10 finish of the season.
“Dover’s never been the best track for me,” Bell said. “I crashed here once, lost power steering once but today was really nice. It’s never really been great for me but now I get to have Miles!”
Bell completed the 200 laps with an average speed of 116.845 mph, in 1 hour, 42 minutes and 42 seconds.
Dover International Speedway PR/Photo Credit Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images