Christopher Bell held back Daniel Hemric and Kyle Busch to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
After taking the lead with 16 laps to go, Bell had to navigate slower traffic and fend off a charging Daniel Hemric to win his third career NASCAR Xfinity Series race and second this year.
“That was pretty special man,” Bell said in relief after the race, leading just 17 laps en route to the victory.
“Man it was extremely difficult starting in the back there,” he added in Victory Lane. “I knew my car would handle a little bit different than it would at the front, but we kept getting good pit stops, gaining spots here and gaining spots there and got a good restart and next thing you know, we’re up front and the cars driving completely different.
Stage 1 and 2
Cole Custer led the first 15 laps of the race before he was run down and overtaken by Busch, who then checked out and led the remainder of the stage, taking the Stage 1 win with ease.
Custer was second, John Hunter Nemechek third, Matt Tifft fourth and Austin Cindric fifth. Brandon Jones, Tyler Reddick, Justin Allgaier, Hemric and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top-ten.
The race resumed on Lap 52 with Busch still in control. Ty Majeski restarted on the front row after a two-tire call, but he got loose and got into the Turn 2 wall, causing him to make an unscheduled pit stop.
Busch continued on unchallenged until the closing laps of the stage when Nemechek ran him down and harassed him for the top spot, ultimately taking it with ten laps remaining.
Nemechek went on to win the second stage over Busch, Custer, Cindric, Jones, Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Reddick, Paul Menard and Hemric.
The final stage went green on Lap 98, but quickly returned to yellow as Blake Jones went spinning. As the old adage goes, cautions breed cautions and on the ensuing restart, another incident took place as Nemechek slid up the track and got into Jones, sending him spinning across the track and into the inside wall on the backstretch.
The next restart came on Lap 109 and the race went green for 24 laps before Majeski brought out the fifth caution of the race, spinning through the infield.
The field filed down pit road, but it was Michael Annett winning the race off with a bold two-tire call.
During the caution period, things went wrong for Stage 2 winner Nemechek as he lost all power and required a push back to the pits.
When the race resumed, Annett could not hold the lead for long and actually slid up the track in Turns 1 and 2, nearly colliding with Hemric as he dropped several positions.
But with 56 laps to go, Hemric went on the attack and did something few were able to do at Kentucky, passing Busch for the race lead. He proceeded to pull away until the yellow flag flew once more when contact between Tifft and Sadler sent the latter bouncing off the wall.
During the caution, Busch made a risky call to come down pit road to make adjustments on his No. 18 machine. He dropped from 3rd to 14th, but it didn’t take him long to carve his way back through the pack.
Allgaier shot into the lead on a restart with 49 laps to go as Hemric did all he could to hang on to second. After a brief run, the seventh caution of the race came out when Joey Gase spun into the outside wall.
Allgaier restarted with the race lead while Busch was already back up inside the top-six. Bell got under Hemric for the runner-up position on the restart and set his sights on Allgaier.
“I don’t know why, but it’s just slow,” complained Busch over the radio as his charge stalled out in fourth.
But up front, the battle for the win was heating up as the leading trio navigated lapped traffic. With 16 laps to go, Bell got a massive run on Allgaier and muscled his way into the lead. Hemric followed suit and reclaimed the second position as Allgaier fell all the way back to fourth as Busch also moved by.
Hemric tried to close the gap in traffic, but to no avail, coming 0.848 seconds short of the win at the checkered flag.
Hemric was very disappointed after the race, feeling he chose the wrong land when he had the lead for a late restart. “Just didn’t execute on my end. Did not get the restarts I needed to … Unbelievably frustrated on my end, just didn’t get the job done. I wish I had the opportunity to redo some things on my end.”
Busch was third, Allgaier fourth and Custer fifth. Reddick, Nemechek, Reed, Menard and Cindric rounded out the top-ten.