LOUDON, N.H. – Christopher Bell made his return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series a successful one Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Bell, making his first Xfinity Series start since the 2019 season finale, dominated Ambetter Get Vaccinated 200 to secure his 17th career Xfinity Series victory. It was his third Xfinity Series victory at the 1.058-mile asphalt oval in as many starts at the track.
The triumph came aboard the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, which has visited Xfinity Series victory lane eight times with three different drivers – Bell, Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs. It was also the No. 54 team’s third-straight Xfinity Series victory.
“What I’ve figured out is I’ve got really, really fast race cars to drive. I just love being here with Joe Gibbs Racing,” Bell said. “Man it feels good to win.”
The Oklahoma driver was the class of the field during the 200-lap event. He started 14th and was able to march his way through the field to take the lead for the first time just before the first stage break.
He briefly lost the lead when a few cars opted not to pit between stages one and two, but quickly returned to the lead on lap 55 and controlled stage two as well. He remained the leader for the start of stage three and had pulled away to a more than four second advantage when the caution flag waved on lap 149 when Patrick Emerling crashed.
Bell retained the lead during a round of pit stops during the caution period and held off a challenge from Justin Allgaier during the restart that saw Allgaier make multiple attempts to pass Bell on the inside.
That was the last challenge Bell would have as he slowly pulled away from Allgaier, who fell into a battle with Daniel Hemric for the runner-up spot. At the checkered flag Bell crossed the finish line 6.241 seconds ahead of Allgaier, who narrowly held off Hemric to finish second.
Unlike races in previous years, Saturday’s event was run with no PJ1 traction compound on the track. Bell believes that may give him an advantage going into Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
“I think these weekends with no practice or qualifying, you’re not sitting in the car until they drop the green flag, this is a really big advantage,” said Bell, who led 151 of 200 laps Saturday afternoon. “Hopefully it’ll be pretty similar and I really hope that we’ve got a really fast Camry tomorrow.”
Austin Cindric finished fourth while Harrison Burton finished fifth to complete the top-five.