Christopher Bell overtook Brandon Jones with less than 20 laps remaining to capture Saturday’s Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and pocketed a $100,000 bonus for his efforts.
Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was one of four drivers competing for the series’ Dash 4 Cash bonus. The other three eligibles weren’t far behind: Tyler Reddick finished second; Chase Briscoe fourth; and Michael Annett wound up eighth.
“Pretty cool to get my first win here with the Dash 4 Cash bonus,” Bell said in victory lane. “Joe Gibbs Racing has a really, really good package at Bristol [but] for whatever reason, we struggled to find it. I didn’t feel good basically all practice and didn’t qualify good.
“I was really, really loose [in the early laps]. But the longer the runs went, the better I got.”
Third place went to Cole Custer while John Hunter Nemechek finished behind Briscoe, rounding out the top five.
Reddick, piloting the No. 2 Chevrolet out of the Richard Childress Racing shops, was second in both the first and second stages en route to his runner-up finish. After leading 61 laps, he mistakenly thought the first stage had ended, and the hesitation while still under green allowed Justin Allgaier to shoot past for the stage win.
Reddick shadowed Allgaier for the entire second stage, finishing second, but then lost five spots on pit road due to an issue in the pits. Late contact with the wall wasn’t an issue, he said, sliding high as he tried to chase down Bell.
“[It wasn’t] getting into the wall,” Reddick said. “These composite bodies are durable as can be. I just needed a little bit more [speed] there to get past Christopher.
“The unfortunate part is when I got behind him it was hard to make the pass.”
Allgaier won two stages and led 138 of the race’s 300 laps. But, battling with Bell, Reddick and Custer in the third stage, Allgaier’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet suddenly slowed, and he would pull behind pit wall with an apparent engine issue.
Custer rallied from an early setback that saw him pit twice under yellow to repair damage to his Ford after the opening stage. By the start of the final stage, he was back among the race leaders.
“We just didn’t really have the fire-off speed or the perfect scenarios to pass people when we got up into the top five,” Custer said. “It was impossible to pass, really. I don’t know — I’m pretty mad because I think we had the best car there at the end, we just didn’t have the best fire-off [speed]. I know we’ve got to get a little bit better.”
The top four finishers will be eligible for the $100,000 bonus next week at Richmond, and continue in subsequent Xfinity races at Talladega and Dover.
Jones inherited the lead when he did not pit after Harrison Burton brought out the caution flag at lap 261. With nearly 80-lap-old tires, Jones still managed to hold Bell and the others at bay for nearly 20 laps.
“He (Jones) did a great job,” Bell said of his JGR teammate. “He really did. This place, for whatever reason, suits his driving style. He should have won this race last year. He just couldn’t quite hang on on those older tires …
“I knew I was going to have to do the slide job and hopefully take the top away,” Bell added, “which I was able to do.”