Saturday's motors: Bell records third straight Xfinity win
Ames, Iowa — Christopher Bell made history Saturday at Iowa Speedway — even though nearly everything that could go against him did down the stretch.
Bell moved back out front in overtime to win a wild NASCAR Xfinity series race on Newton’s bull ring, becoming the first series regular with three straight victories since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1999.
Coming off victories in Kentucky and New Hampshire, Bell led 94 of 257 laps. He broke a tie with Cup driver Kyle Larson for the series season victory lead with four.
“When it’s your day, it’s your day,” Bell said. “I’ll take them any way I can get them, man.”
Bell fell back to fourth in the first attempt at overtime before a red flag halted the race. He retook control in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 car, going low to beat Justin Allgaier —the winner of the June race at Iowa.
Allgaier was second, followed by Kyle Benjamin and Ross Chastain.
Bell seized the top spot early in the final stage and, after a clean final pit stop, seemed set to cruise to a victory if the race stayed green.
It didn’t, and Bell nearly got knocked out of the race in the first of three late incidents that set up a thrilling finish.
Bell avoided a near-disastrous crash with 14 laps left when Chase Briscoe spun out right in front of him. Bell somehow kept the No. 20 largely clean, and he held first on a restart with nine laps left before Garrett Smithley spun out to draw another flag that brought on overtime.
Allgaier got the best of the field on that restart though, emerging from the pack on the high groove to grab the lead. That wouldn’t last, as Max Tullman and Matt Tifft drew the red flag with a big crash before the first overtime lap could be completed.
When the race resumed, Bell and Allgaier rubbed cars before Bell jumped ahead.
“(Bell) drove into me and tried to put me into the wall,” Allgaier said. “It’s disappointing to be in that position, especially when you think you know how somebody is going to race you … unfortunately that’s Iowa. And (Bell) definitely had the best car. No questions asked.”
Elliott Sadler started on the pole for the first time since Indianapolis in 2017. Cole Custer beat Sadler on the first restart of the race, which came after an early caution, and picked up his first stage win and playoff point.
Custer continued his strong run in the second stage. But Bell, who had moved to within less than a car length of Custer, slipped down to the inside line and finally passed Custer with five laps to go. It was the fourth stage win of the season for Bell, who now leads the point standings by 16 over Sadler.
It was the seventh victory at Iowa for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Bell.
“I was just praying for no yellow (flags) there on that long green flag run. When it came, it just became time to execute on restarts. I let one get away on me, but this thing was so good I was able to come from the second row,” Bell said.
Benjamin, in his final scheduled start of the season in JGR’s No. 18 car, posted his second top-10 finish in three tries at Iowa.
At Long Pond, Pa., Daniel Suarez made NASCAR history when he became the first Mexican driver to win a pole in the elite Cup series.
The milestone comes with a bit of an asterisk: Suarez earned the top spot for Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway because the times of front-row starters Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were tossed out because their cars failed inspection.
Suarez had qualified third but officially starts his bid for his first career Cup win from the pole.
“It feels good because we haven’t been running well lately,” Suarez said. “I feel like this is just the beginning of the weekend. The real business is (Sunday) and we have to keep this rolling.”
Alexander Rossi won his third pole of the season, leading qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner, denied Will Power his third pole at the Lexington, Ohio, course. His NAPA Auto Parts Honda had a one-lap speed of 125.677 mph over the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course.
His previous poles this season were street courses at Long Beach and Belle Isle Park. He has four career poles.
Power has yet to win at Mid-Ohio despite six top-five finishes in nine starts. He had a speed of 125.263 mph in the Verizon Team Penske Chevy.
Lewis Hamilton produced a brilliant last lap to take pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in difficult track conditions in Budapest, Hungary.
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff could hardly believe it as he watched from the team motorhome, clutching his head in disbelief as Hamilton beat Bottas’ time to secure a record-extending 77th pole position.
Just moments earlier, Mercedes’s Formula One rivals Ferrari were 1-2 at the top of the leaderboard with Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel will start in fourth, behind Raikkonen.