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Bell survives overtime shootout for fourth consecutive Xfinity victory at New Hampshire

Christopher Bell remains undefeated in four NASCAR Xfinity Series career starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after prevailing in an overtime battle against teammate Sheldon Creed and Cole Custer to win the SciAps 200 on Saturday, June 22.

The 2024 Coca-Cola 600 champion from Norman, Oklahoma, led twice for 43 of 203 over-scheduled laps in an event where he started in 23rd place based on a qualifying metric formula as the event’s qualifying session was canceled due to on-track precipitation. After methodically carving his way to the front, Bell assumed the lead for the first time at the start of the second stage period on Lap 52 and he would proceed to capture the second stage victory on Lap 90.

Despite losing the lead to Cole Custer at the start of the final stage period with 95 laps remaining, Bell remained upfront and withstood a series of late-race caution periods to restart alongside Custer on the front row as the event was sent into overtime. Then during the event’s only overtime attempt, Bell seized an opportunity amid a late-race battle between Custer and teammate Sheldon Creed to make a three-wide move on both through the frontstretch to start the final lap. He then overtook both through the first two turns and retained the top spot through the final two turns to claim his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series checkered flag at the Magic Mile and in his first Xfinity start of the 2024 season.

On-track qualifying was scheduled for Friday, June 21, but was canceled due to on-track precipitation. The starting lineup for the main event was determined through a qualifying metric formula. As a result, Cole Custer was awarded the pole position and shared the front row with rookie Chandler Smith.

Before the event, Parker Retzlaff dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to his No. 31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet Camaro entry. He was also assessed a stop-and-go penalty at the start of the event.

Prior to the field entering the track for pace laps, NASCAR directed the teams to change to wet weather tires on their respective entries due to this weekend’s on-track precipitation and with more wet weather looming near the circuit.

When the green flag waved and the race started, the field jumbled up and scattered as Matt DiBenedetto, who qualified in 10th place and started alongside teammate Ryan Sieg in the fifth row, struggled to launch at the start and through the frontstretch. During the early chaos, Custer muscled his No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang ahead with the lead from the outside lane. He would retain the lead from the backstretch and back to the frontstretch, where he would lead the first lap ahead of teammate Riley Herbst and Chandler Smith.

During the next four laps, Custer extended his advantage to a second over teammate Herbst while Chandler Smith, Sam Mayer and Sammy Smith trailed in the top five, with the latter trailing by two seconds. Chandler Smith would then slowly drift out of the top five while battling handling issues to his entry as Parker Kligerman overtook him for fifth place. Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier and Corey Heim would all overtake Chandler Smith, who would soon lose 10th place to Anthony Alfredo, as Kligerman was being challenged Creed, Hill and Allgaier for fifth place.

Through the first 10 scheduled laps, Custer was leading by nine-tenths of a second over teammate Herbst followed by Mayer, Hill and Sammy Smith while Allgaier, Heim, Creed, Jeremy Clements and Kligerman occupied the top 10 spots on the track. Behind, Alfredo was in 11th place ahead of Christopher Bell, who carved his way up to the top 12 on the track after starting 23rd, while rookie Jesse Love, AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Sieg were running in the top 15.

Shortly after, a competition caution was flown as NASCAR analyzed the track to determine if it was still wet or not. With the track deemed dry, the field led by Custer pitted for slick, dry tires. Following the pit stops, Custer retained the lead after exiting pit road first as Hill, Sammy Smith, Bell, Creed and Mayer followed suit in the top six.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 16, Hill challenged Custer for the lead through the first two turns before he muscled his No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro ahead through the backstretch. Hill retained the lead over Custer for the following lap while Bell was intimidating Sammy Smith for third place. Amid the early battles around the circuit, Custer reassumed the lead from Hill by Lap 18 and he would retain the lead by the Lap 20 mark while Sammy Smith retained third place ahead of Bell and Creed.

At the Lap 25 mark, Custer stretched his advantage to more than a second over Hill while Bell was up to third place after he overtook Sammy Smith for the spot. Corey Heim, who was making his eighth Xfinity Series start of the 2024 season with Sam Hunt Racing, occupied fifth place ahead of Herbst, Creed, Mayer, AJ Allmendinger and Allgaier while Kligerman, Ryan Sieg, Alex Bowman, Clements and Chandler Smith followed suit in the top 15 ahead of Jesse Love, Justin Bonsignore, Jeb Burton, Carson Kvapil and Brennan Poole.

Two laps later, the event’s second caution flew due to Patrick Emerling stalling his SS-Green Light Racing entry off of Turn 2. During the caution period, select names including Allgaier, teammate Brandon Jones, Retzlaff, Leland Honeyman, rookie Shane van Gisbergen and newcomer Justin Bonsignore pitted while the rest led by Custer remained on the track.

As the event restarted under green on Lap 33, Custer rocketed away from Hill and the field entering the first two turns while Bell overtook Hill for the runner-up spot. Heim would move his No. 26 Yahoo! Toyota Supra to third place as he also overtook Hill for the spot while Custer retained the lead for the following lap. The caution would then return by Lap 34 as Kligerman, who was racing in eighth place, received a tap from Allmendinger that sent Kligerman’s No. 48 Spiked Coolers Chevrolet Camaro spun towards the outside wall in between Turns 1 and 2.

During the caution period, some led by Custer and including Bell, Hill, Creed, Heim, Chandler Smith and Jesse Love pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track.

The start of the next restart period on Lap 39 featured Sammy Smith retaining the lead while Mayer and Alex Bowman battled for the runner-up spot. Mayer would then muscle through and overtake teammate Sammy Smith to assume the lead during the following lap as Herbst, Allmendinger and Bowman battled for third place.

When the first stage period concluded on Lap 45, Mayer, winner of last weekend’s Xfinity Series event at Iowa Speedway, secured his first Xfinity stage victory of the 2024 season. Teammate Sammy Smith fended off Herbst for the runner-up spot as they were followed by Allmendinger and Allgaier while Bowman, Kvapil, Ryan Sieg, Jeb Burton and Bonsignore were scored in the top 10. By then, Bell was up to 11th place while Creed, Hill, Custer, Chandler Smith and Heim were trailing in the top 21 on the track.

Under the stage break, some led by Mayer and including those who did not during the previous caution period pitted while the rest led by Bonsignore and Bell remained on the track.

The second stage period started on Lap 52 as teammates Bonsignore and Bell occupied the front row. At the start and with the field fanning out to three lanes through the frontstretch, Bonsignore struggled to launch at the start while Bell received a push from teammate Creed to assume the lead. Bonsignore would retain second place ahead of teammate Creed, Brandon Jones and Hill while teammate Bell retained the lead for the following lap. Bell would proceed to lead by half a second over teammate Bonsignore, who kept Bell’s No. 20 Mobil 1 Toyota Supra close in his front windshield, while Custer was trying to carve his way back into the top five as he trailed Creed, Hill and Heim in sixth place.

Through the Lap 60 mark, Bell extended his advantage to a second over teammate Bonsignore while teammate Creed was trying to retain third place ahead of Heim, Custer, Chandler Smith, Brandon Jones and Hill, all of whom trailed Creed by a second. Meanwhile, Allgaier, who pitted during the first stage break period due to concerns of smoke coming out of his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro, was in ninth place as he trailed the lead by five seconds while Kligerman was up to 10th place. Behind, Jesse Love, Mayer, Sammy Smith, DiBenedetto and Alfredo occupied the top 15 while Allmendinger, Kyle Weatherman, Ryan Sieg, Bowman and Kvapil trailed in the top 20.

Ten laps later, Bell stretched his lead to another second as he was leading by two seconds over teammate Bonsignore while third-place Creed retained third place as he trailed teammate Bell by five seconds. Behind, Custer and Heim were in the top five while Chandler Smith, the fourth Joe Gibbs Racing competitor, was up to sixth place ahead of Allgaier, Hill, Brandon Jones and Kligerman.

By Lap 80 and with the leaders lapping the rear end of the field, Bell stabilized his advantage to two seconds over teammate Bonsignore. Behind, Custer, who trailed the lead by more than five seconds, was up to third place and Creed dropped to fourth while Chandler Smith was up to fifth place ahead of Allgaier and Heim.

When the second stage period concluded on Lap 90, Bell cruised to his first Xfinity stage victory in his first Xfinity start of the 2024 season. Teammate Bonsignore settled in second as he trailed Bell by four seconds followed by Custer, Creed and Chandler Smith while Allgaier, Heim, Brandon Jones, Hill and Kligerman were scored in the top 10.

During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Bell pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Custer returned atop the leaderboard after he exited pit road first ahead of Bell, Chandler Smith, Creed and Bonsignore. Allgaier slid through his pit box and endured a slow pit service as he exited the pits in 25th place.

With 102 laps remaining, the final stage commenced as Custer and Bell occupied the front row. At the start, Custer launched ahead of Bell from the outside lane while Chandler Smith tried to challenge Bell for the runner-up spot. Bell then tried to draw even with Custer through the first two turns, but Custer retained the lead through the backstretch. Bell then got briefly loose entering Turn 3, which allowed teammate Chandler Smith to assume the runner-up spot while Custer retained the lead during the following lap. Then just as the event reached its halfway mark on Lap 100, the caution returned after Armani Williams spun in Turn 4.

With the event restarting under green with 95 laps remaining, Custer gained another strong start from the outside lane to retain the lead while Chandler Smith battled and prevailed in a brief battle over teammate Bell for the runner-up spot. Teammate Bonsignore followed suit in fourth along with Heim and Creed while Hill and Sammy Smith battled for seventh place in front of Herbst and Kligerman. Amid the battles within the field, Custer continued to lead by half a second over a side-by-side battle between teammates Chandler Smith and Bell.

With 80 laps remaining, Custer stretched his advantage to a second over Chandler Smith while Smith’s Toyota teammates that included Bell, Bonsignore, Creed and Heim followed suit in the top six. Herbst, Sammy Smith, Hill and Mayer trailed in the top 10 while Ryan Sieg, Kligerman, Allmendinger, Bowman and Allgaier were running in the top 15 ahead of Kvapil, Brandon Jones, Love, van Gisbergen and DiBenedetto.

Ten laps later, Custer added another second to his advantage and was now leading by two seconds over Bell. Bonsignore was up to third place after he prevailed in an earlier battle with teammate Chandler Smith for the spot, as he overtook Smith from the outside lane. With Smith dropping to fourth place, teammate Creed retained fifth place as he trailed Smith by half a second while Heim was scored in sixth place ahead of Herbst, Sammy Smith, Hill and Mayer.

Another 10 laps later, Custer stretched his advantage to three seconds over Bell while third-place Bonsignore also trailed by three seconds, but by seven-tenths of a second to teammate Bell. With the event remaining under green flag conditions despite light precipitation being reported around the circuit, Custer, who was nearing his fuel window, retained the lead as Bell, Sammy Smith and Herbst pitted under green with 51 laps remaining.

The following lap, more green flag pit stops commenced as the leader Custer pitted along with Bonsignore, Heim, Hill, Allgaier, Allmendinger and Love before Chandler Smith, Creed, Mayer, Kligerman, van Gisbergen and DiBenedetto pitted with 49 laps remaining. During the pit stops, Kvapil, who had yet to pit, was leading and would continue to lead with 45 laps remaining while Brandon Jones, Bowman, Weatherman, Josh Williams, Alfredo and Retzlaff all trailed in the top seven as all have yet to pit.

With 40 laps remaining, Kvapil, who was opting to stretch his fuel tank as far as he could, continued to lead ahead of teammate Jones, Bowman and Weatherman while Custer, the first competitor on four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, carved his way up to fifth place as he trailed the lead by 12 seconds. Meanwhile, Bell was mired in eighth place and trailing Custer by four seconds while Chandler Smith, Creed and Bonsignore were back within the top 12.

Four laps later, Bowman pitted his No. 17 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro from third place as Retzlaff would also pit under green. As Bowman was then assessed a penalty for an uncontrolled tire violation, Jones would pit his No. 9 Menards Chevrolet Camaro from the runner-up spot a few laps later before Kvapil surrendered the lead to pit his No. 88 Clarience Technologies Chevrolet Camaro with 34 laps remaining. As a result, Custer cycled his way back into the lead while Bell, Chandler Smith, Creed and Bonsignore moved back into the top five.

The caution would then fly with 33 laps remaining after Armani Williams spun in the backstretch, which marked his second incident of the day. During the caution period, nearly the entire lead lap field led by Custer returned to pit road for service while Love and Kvapil remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Custer exited pit road first ahead of Bell, Chandler Smith, Kligerman, Sammy Smith, Hill, Creed and Bonsignore.

The start of the following restart period with 26 laps remaining featured Kvapil receiving a push from Custer to shoot into the lead from the inside lane as Chandler Smith tried to make a three-wide move on Custer and Love through the frontstretch. With the move not prevailing for Smith, Custer would battle and overtake Love for the runner-up spot as he started to close in on Kvapil for the lead. Then as Custer attempted to draw even with Kvapil through the frontstretch, the caution returned after Chandler Smith spun his No. 81 Smith General Contracting Toyota Supra from fifth place after he made contact with teammate Creed in Turn 3.

The start of the next restart period with 19 laps remaining did not last long as Sammy Smith made contact with Bonsignore as both Bonsignore and Mayer, who was racing beneath Sammy Smith at the moment of contact, spun together through Turns 1 and 2. At the same time, a chain reaction wreck occurred that collected Hill, van Gisbergen, Jones, Brennan Poole, Weatherman, Allmendinger and Bowman. At the moment of caution, Custer had managed to reassume the lead from Kvapil while Bell, Love, Creed and Allgaier were scored in the top six.

Down to the final 12 laps of the event, the field restarted under green. At the start, Custer rocketed ahead of Kvapil from the outside lane with the lead while Bell was battling Kvapil for the runner-up spot. Creed then tried to ignite a three-wide battle between teammate Bell and Kvapil for the runner-up spot, but Bell prevailed in the battle as he assumed the spot followed by Creed and a hard-charging Allgaier, who was charging strong from the outside lane, while Kvapil dropped to fifth. The caution, however, would return during the following lap as Nathan Byrd and Hailie Deegan wrecked in Turn 4.

With the event restarting under green with six laps remaining, Custer held a brief advantage entering the first two turns until Bell drew even with Custer through the backstretch. With both remaining dead even for the top spot during the following lap, Custer held the advantage by a hair over Bell while Creed followed in close pursuit in third place. As all three continued to battle closely for the lead, the caution returned for an incident involving Mason Massey and Deegan in Turn 2. At the moment of caution and with the event sent into overtime, Custer was deemed the leader over Bell as Creed, Allgaier and Kvapil were scored in the top five.

The start of the first overtime attempt featured Custer gaining another strong start from the outside lane as he muscled ahead with the lead while Creed muscled his way up to second place from teammate Bell. Then as Custer retained the lead through the backstretch, he received a little bump from Creed entering the frontstretch, which allowed both Creed and Bell to make their move beneath Custer as Creed emerged ahead of both Custer and Bell by a hair to start the final lap of the event.

Then entering Turns 1 and 2, Bell made the inside lane stick as he muscled ahead of both Custer and teammate Creed to assume the lead entering the backstretch. As Creed and Custer battled for the runner-up spot through the backstretch and in front of Allgaier, Bell was able to maintain his ground and make the final two turns stick as he cycled back to the frontstretch victorious by claiming the checkered flag by two-tenths of a second over Creed and by six-tenths of a second over Custer.

With the victory, Bell notched his fourth consecutive Xfinity Series win in all four career starts at New Hampshire that includes the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons. He also recorded his 18th career victory in the series and his first since winning at New Hampshire in 2021 as he joined AJ Allmendinger as competitors to win in first four career starts at a track.

In addition, Bell recorded the 13th Xfinity victory overall at New Hampshire for both the Toyota nameplate and Joe Gibbs Racing. He is the fourth Cup Series regular to win through the first 16 events of the 2024 Xfinity season, joining John Hunter Nemechek, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. He is also the fourth competitor overall to pilot the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra entry to a victory this season, including Nemechek, Aric Almirola and Ryan Truex.

“I feel so bad for Sheldon [Creed],” Bell said on USA Network. “He’s been really, really close to winning these [races] and today, he did everything right to win that race. He restarted in the right lane, gave Cole [Custer] a good push and then coming to the white flag, he got Cole loose and that’s what opened the door for me. This Mobil 1 [Supra] was really, really good early in the race and once I lost the track position, I was just kind of another guy. Very fortunate to keep my undefeated streak alive. We got really lucky there. Everyone on this No. 20 car’s doing awesome.”

Teammate Sheldon Creed, who led the penultimate lap before being overtaken by teammate Bell on the final lap, settled in second place for the third of the 2024 season and the 10th time in his career while Cole Custer, who led a race-high 114 laps, ended up in third place.

“I feel like there’s a million things to do differently,” Creed said. “[Finishing second for the 10th time]’s not a stat I wanted to tie. Most seconds before a win. I thought when I got next to [Custer] off of [Turn] 4 coming to the white [flag], that was going to be my opportunity. Obviously, Bell got a good run and we shifted down there in [Turn] 1. I felt like I was gonna stay outside of him. I think [Custer] was able to stay close enough to me and me being free on the short run all day, just a little too free there to stay outside of [Bell]. Overall, a great day. I’ve been in the hunt the last four weeks, so just gonna keep working hard at it.”

“I would’ve done the same thing [on Creed with the contact],” Custer said. “You’re racing for the win. It is what it is. Man, it just stings. I felt like we had the best car all day. That’s not easy to do at these flat short tracks. Our guys brought such a fast car. [I] Guess you get put in those late-race restarts six times or whatever, eventually, it’s probably not gonna going your way, but I’m gonna relive that, definitely, of what I could’ve done different. Maybe I could’ve protected a little bit more, but you watch the replay and it went perfectly wrong for us. Just got to keep digging. I’m really excited about what we can do. That was a really fast car. We got the points lead. Just got to keep knocking on the door.”

Justin Allgaier rallied from his early issues on pit road to finish fourth while Carson Kvapil finished in fifth place for the third time in his first four Xfinity Series career starts.

Ryan Sieg, Parker Kligerman, Riley Herbst, Alex Bowman and Corey Heim finished in the top 10. Notably, Justin Bonsignore, a three-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion who won the Modified event at New Hampshire hours before the Xfinity event, finished 22nd in his Xfinity Series debut while Sam Mayer, who won the first stage period, ended up in 19th place.

*Matt DiBenedetto was disqualified from his 17th-place result due to three loose lug nuts that were discovered on his right-rear section of his car.

There were 15 lead changes for 10 different leaders. The race featured 11 cautions for 58 laps. In addition, 29 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.

Following the 16th event of the 2024 Xfinity Series season, Cole Custer leads the regular-season standings by 15 points over Chandler Smith, 42 over Justin Allgaier, 69 over Austin Hill, 105 over Sheldon Creed and 111 over Riley Herbst.

Results.

1. Christopher Bell, 43 laps led, Stage 2 winner

2. Sheldon Creed, one lap led

3. Cole Custer, 114 laps led

4. Justin Allgaier

5. Carson Kvapil, 24 laps led

6. Ryan Sieg

7. Parker Kligerman

8. Riley Herbst

9. Alex Bowman

10. Corey Heim

11. AJ Allmendinger

12. Sammy Smith, three laps led

13. Jesse Love, three laps led

14. Brandon Jones

15. Chandler Smith, one lap led

16. Brennan Poole

17. Jeb Burton

18. Shane van Gisbergen

19. Sam Mayer, nine laps led, Stage 1 winner

20. Anthony Alfredo

21. Jeremy Clements

22. Justin Bonsignore, three laps led

23. Josh Williams

24. Austin Hill, two laps led

25. Kyle Weatherman

26. Parker Retzlaff

27. Blaine Perkins

28. Glen Reen

29. Garrett Smithley, one lap down

30. Mason Massey, one lap down

31. Kyle Sieg, two laps down

32. Hailie Deegan, two laps down

33. Armani Williams, five laps down

34. Patrick Emerling, six laps down

35. Ryan Ellis – OUT, DVP

36. Nathan Byrd – OUT, Accident

37. Leland Honeyman – OUT, Accident

38. Matt DiBenedetto – Disqualified

Next on the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Lottery 250. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, June 29, and air at 5 p.m. ET on USA Network.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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