SPARTA, Ky. — Christopher Bell had to go to the rear of the field to start the 2018 Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway after a spin during qualifying, but he was able to battle back to earn his third-career victory in the Xfinity Series.
“Man, it was extremely difficult,” Bell said. “Starting in the back there, I knew my car was going to handle a little bit different than what it would at the front and all throughout practice I knew that we were — my car was capable of racing for the win. But when we started in the back, man, it just drives so different back there and the guys kept getting good pit stops and we’d gain a spot here, gain a spot there, get a good restart and the next thing you know we’re up there racing at the front and it’s driving totally different.”
Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff said while Bell took responsibility for his qualifying spin, it wasn’t all on him.
“I just over-adjusted the car, honestly,” Ratcliff said. “The good thing about it is both of us wanted to sit on the pole. We weren’t going out there to run second.”
Bell was asked what he thought when other cars were able to battle with Kyle Busch, who is often unstoppable in the Xfinity Series.
“I guess it shows he’s human and race cars matter at some point,” Bell said. “Back whenever I was buried, I think it was the second stage, the 42 passed him and won. That caught me off guard and I’m sure it caught a lot of people off guard.”
Daniel Hemric had a strong car late, able to take the lead on lap 144 before Elliott Sadler hit the wall in turn two after contact with Matt Tifft to bring the caution flag out. On the restart, Hemric took the inside line putting Justin Allgaier on the outside and Allgaier was able to take the lead from him on the restart.
Hemric said despite finishing second, he was happy with the team’s performance.
“It was a lot of fun from my perspective, especially having a shot at the end,” he said. “I thought the racing was really good considering the repave.”
Hemric said there were some things he could have done better to maybe have a better chance at the win, such as giving Allgaier the outside on the restart.
“Seems like the story of my life here lately,” he said. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda.”
After taking the lead on the lap 152 restart, Bell was able to get under Allgaier on lap 184 to take the lead away. Allgaier fell back several spots, but was able to battle back to finish fourth behind Kyle Busch.
“It was fun to have a shot there at the end,” Allgaier said, adding that he was struggling early on. “Our guys did a great job. They made great pit calls. I had awesome pit stops.”
Cole Custer closed out the top five after leading the opening 14 laps and staying near the front throughout the event. He said it was all the short runs at the end of the race that did him in.
“It was tough,” he said. “We had a lot of cautions there and we weren’t very good firing off, so that kind of hurt us. I’m happy we got our car a lot better throughout the weekend, our Haas Automation Mustang, but we just need to figure out how to get it a little bit better so we can compete for the win. We’re really fast at the end of a run, but we can’t compete at the start of a run, so we’ll go back and figure it out.”
Bell said while two wins this season is good, it’s not enough.
“Two wins is not a successful year for us,” he said. “We need to continue to win.”
He said he needs to do a little better to be able to contend for the championship this season.
“The guy beside me is doing his job,” he said of Ratcliff. “Everyone is doing their job. I need to execute my job a little better. For the most part we start the race every single weekend with a shot to win. That’s everything you can ask for as a race car driver.”
After going green through the first two stages, the race took on a different feel in the final stage, with two cautions right out the gate with spins from Blake Jones and Brandon Jones. In the end there were seven cautions for 32 laps.
Busch took the green and white checkered to win the first stage, while John Hunter Nemechek grabbed the lead from him late in stage 2 to win that stage. There were eight lead changes among seven drivers. The time of the race was two hours, 16 minutes and 29 seconds.
The Xfinity Series will next take to the track July 21 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.