Christopher Bell made the most of his one-race return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series by remaining undefeated at New Hampshire Motor Speedway following a dominating victory in the Ambetter Get Vaccinated 200 on Saturday, July 17. The Norman, Oklahoma, native quickly worked his way from starting 14th to sweep both stages and lead a race-high 151 of 200 laps before recording the win by more than six seconds over Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Jeb Burton started on pole position and was joined on the front row with teammate Justin Haley.
Prior to the event, Landon Cassill and Matt Mills dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective machines. Dawson Cram also started at the rear of the field due to a driver change.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Jeb Burton prevailed on the outside lane through the first two turns to take an early lead over teammate Haley, Austin Cindric and the field.
With the field fanned out to nearly four lanes through the backstretch, Jeb Burton was able to lead the first lap. Behind, Cindric moved up to second followed by AJ Allmendinger, Haley, Jeremy Clements, Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Brett Moffitt and Riley Herbst.
By the fifth lap, Jeb Burton was leading by more than a second over Cindric, who had Allmendinger challenging him for the spot. Haley remained in fourth followed by Clements, Harrison Burton and Allgaier.
Twelve laps later, Allmendinger overtook teammate Jeb Burton for the lead. Allmendinger then went on to retain the lead through Lap 20 before the competition caution flew.
The race restarted on Lap 26 with Allmendinger and Cindric starting on the front row. Just as the field was approaching the start/finish line to restart under green, the caution returned for a restart pileup involving Riley Herbst, Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt and Sam Mayer, an incident that sent the back end of the field scattering to avoid the calamity.
Following the incident, the race restarted on Lap 30. Through the following 13 laps, Allmendinger remained out in front until he had Bell and teammate Harrison Burton challenging him with the first stage reaching its conclusion.
With two laps remaining in the first stage, Bell, following a lengthy battle with Allmendinger and Harrison Burton, moved his No. 54 DeWalt Toyota Supra into the lead. Just as Allmendinger had a final lap effort established for Bell, the caution flew due to a wreck in Turn 1 involving Kyle Weatherman and Tommy Joe Martins. The incident ended the first stage under caution on Lap 45 with Bell in front of Allmendinger, Harrison Burton, Cindric, Daniel Hemric, Allgaier, Haley, Jeb Burton, Josh Berry and Clements.
Under the stage break, nearly the entire field, except for Brandon Brown and Joe Graf Jr., pitted, and Bell was the first competitor to exit pit road.
The second stage started on Lap 53 and Brown retained the lead through the first two turns until he was overtaken by Allmendinger. With Allmendinger back in the lead, Bell also made his way into the runner-up spot on the track.
By Lap 56, Bell returned to the lead after he overtook Allmendinger for the top spot. Behind, Cindric was in third place ahead of Haley, Allgaier, Hemric, Jeb Burton, Noah Gragson, Brandon Brown, Myatt Snider and Josh Berry.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Bell, who continued to dominate, was out in front. Cindric was scored in second followed by Hemric, Allmendinger, Allgaier, Haley, Berry, Harrison Burton, Gragson and Jeb Burton.
Under the stage break, the entire field pitted and Bell retained the lead following his exit from pit road.
With 102 laps remaining, the final stage commenced. At the start and with the field battling for positions, Bell remained as the leader by a clear advantage over Allgaier, Hemric and the field.
With 52 laps remaining, the caution returned when Patrick Emerling lost a right-front tire and smacked the outside wall approaching Turn 4. Under caution, the leaders returned to pit road and Bell retained the lead after exiting pit road with the lead.
Down to the final 45 laps of the event, the race restarted under green as Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Hemric filled the front row. At the start, Bell pulled ahead with the lead followed by Allgaier while Hemric fell back to third ahead of Cindric.
A lap later, Gragson hit the outside wall in Turn 3 following contact with Allmendinger, but the race remained under green.
Meanwhile, the battle for the lead ignited between Bell and Allgaier, with the latter pressuring the former. Despite Allgaier’s repeated challenges through the turns and the straightaways under the final 40 laps, Bell continued to lead.
With 20 laps remaining, Bell continued to lead by nearly two seconds over Allgaier and Hemric.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Bell extended his advantage to nearly five seconds over Allgaier and Hemric. Cindric was back in fourth followed by Harrison Burton and Haley, who was more than 10 second behind.
Despite being surrounded by lapped traffic through the final laps, Bell utilized his huge advantage to pull away and cruise to the finish line, where he claimed his third consecutive checkered flag at the Magic Mile.
Along with his third consecutive Xfinity victory at New Hampshire, Bell achieved his 17th NASCAR Xfinity Series career victory in his 75th series start and the eighth victory of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota Supra team.
“What I’ve got figured out is that I’ve got really, really fast race cars to drive,” Bell said on NBCSN. “I just love being here with Joe Gibbs Racing. All these Supras that I’ve had the last three times I’ve been here have been amazing. Hopefully my Camry is just as good tomorrow, but if feels good to win, finally got DeWalt in victory lane. I know it’s been a long time coming…Just really proud to be at Joe Gibbs Racing. Everyone here does an amazing job.”
Allgaier held off Hemric to finish in the runner-up spot while Cindric and Harrison Burton completed the top five on the track.
Haley, Snider, Josh Berry, Moffitt and Riley Herbst finished in the top 10.
Teammates Jeb Burton and Allmendinger finished 11th and 12th while Gragson settled in 14th in front of Jeremy Clements.
There were five lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 28 laps.
With his top-five run, Austin Cindric continues to lead the regular-season standings by 82 over AJ Allmendinger and 113 over Daniel Hemric.
1. Christopher Bell, 151 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
2. Justin Allgaier
3. Daniel Hemric
4. Austin Cindric
5. Harrison Burton
6. Justin Haley
7. Myatt Snider
8. Josh Berry
9. Brett Moffitt
10. Riley Herbst
11. Jeb Burton, 16 laps led
12. AJ Allmendinger, 29 laps led
13. Ryan Sieg
14. Noah Gragson
15. Jeremy Clements
16. Brandon Gdovic
17. Brandon Brown, four laps led
18. Jade Buford, two laps down
19. Kyle Weatherman, two laps down
20. David Starr, two laps down
21. Tommy Joe Martins, three laps down
22. Josh Williams, three laps down
23. JJ Yeley, three laps down
24. Joe Graf Jr., three laps down
25. Landon Cassill, two laps down
26. Jeffrey Earnhardt, three laps down
27. Dexter Bean, three laps down
28. Jesse Little three laps down
29. Ryan Vargas, four laps down
30. Colby Howard, four laps down
31. Patrick Emerling, four laps down
32. Matt Mills, five laps down
33. Spencer Boyd, six laps down
34. Jordan Anderson, six laps down
35. Dawson Cram, 16 laps down
36. Alex Labbe, 26 laps down
37. CJ McLaughlin – OUT, Electrical
38. Brandon Jones – OUT, Electrical
39. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident
40. Mason Massey – OUT, Accident
The 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season will enter a two-week break period before returning on Saturday, August 7, at Watkins Glen International. The event is slated to start at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.