Christopher Bell didn’t intend to wreck Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones during the pivotal moment of Saturday’s Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.
Bell, 21, had no problem apologizing for that.
The move also propelled Bell to his first career Xfinity Series win. When it comes to that, well … sorry, not sorry.
“I hate that he didn’t get to finish the race where he should’ve, and that we didn’t get to race it out, but I’m going for my first Xfinity win,” Bell said.
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Jones was the dominant force for most of Saturday’s race. He won the first two stages, enjoyed a two-second lead for most of the day, and led 186 of 200 laps — a new Kansas Speedway Xfinity Series record.
Bell started picking up momentum late in the race, setting up the showdown with Jones with three laps to go.
He went low and passed Jones — running high near the wall — on the backstretch. Bell slid up the track entering turn three, into Jones’ path. Jones didn’t slow and slammed into the back of Bell’s car. The damage caused Jones to limp to a 15th-place finish.
“I had a lot of those slide jobs through traffic. I knew what the limits of my car were at the time … at that point, I knew I had to get to the top,” Bell said. “If I didn’t get to the top and he drove around me, that’s the race. After watching the replay, he saw me coming for a long time. He had an option to try and turn down underneath me, and he thought his best option was to try to drive around, and the hole closed.”
Jones understandably didn’t appreciate the move.
“It’s not dirt-track racing. I just can’t stop on the top. I didn’t expect him to drive so low he couldn’t hold his line,” Jones said.
Bell said he planned to reach out to Jones in the near future to talk things over, but he was clear about what the victory meant.
“There’s no question. It’s the biggest win of my career so far,” Bell said.
Tyler Reddick, who won the pole for Saturday’s race, took advantage of the late drama to finish second in his first start at Kansas Speedway.
“It was chaos there at the end,” Reddick said. “I didn’t know that was going to happen. We were just so tight, every time we hit the wall it got a little better. ,Unfortunately we couldn’t race, but things went our way there at the end.”
Saturday was the first Xfinity Series playoff race since the field of title contenders was trimmed to eight drivers.
William Byron finished fourth, tops among those left in the chase, followed by Justin Allgaier in fifth.
“We finished fourth, which is good, and we can carry that momentum to Texas in a couple of weeks,” said Byron, who qualified sixth but was moved to the rear of the field before the race started because of unapproved adjustments.
“It was harder to get through the field with the pace the way it was. By lap 60 or so, we were back up to sixth or seventh, where we started.”
Allgaier and Byron switched places in the point standings, and Allgaier now leads by two points. Elliot Sadler, who finished seventh after an early race spinout, is third in points, followed by Brennan Poole. Matt Tifft rounds out the top five.
Kansas City, Kan.-native Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 35th after battling mechanical issues throughout the race.