By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
AVONDALE, Arizona — Christopher Bell owned the first two stages which put his stage wins total up to 22, but a speeding penalty following a spin dashed his shot at a ninth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of 2019 in Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at ISM Raceway.
Bell finished 16th, but since he had already locked himself into the Championship 4 last Saturday at Texas, his eyes are on capturing the series title. One of the ways his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing squad prepared for Homestead is having a specially prepared car that has previously raced and tested by his soon-to-be successor Harrison Burton.
While Bell wouldn’t say where it has raced, but getting into Homestead has been the main focus for the team ever since last season’s disappointing 11th place result.
“It’s what’s all about. It all comes to down to this one next week. I’m ready for it. I feel really good about where we’re at,” Bell said. “Our cars are going to be extremely strong next week. We’ve prepared a ton for this. Ever since we left Homestead last year, we knew that this race is where we need to improve. Pretty much all year long we’ve been focused on Homestead.”
During the race at Phoenix, Bell felt that for the first time in his career that his pit road speeding penalty wasn’t “just being dumb and following the leaders” but simply flat out missing his mark.
“It sucks because I feel like we gave up a win,” Bell said. “Pit road speeds we focus really hard on every single week to make sure that we maximize that, but we aren’t too close to the edge to speed.
“We did pit road a number of times yesterday and we felt like we’re really safe. Right on our number where we like to be, but for whatever reason we sped. I don’t feel like I missed my lights whenever I sped, so that was really confusing. We’ll have to look at that and make sure it doesn’t happen next week.”
As a result, Bell hustled extremely hard to gain his spots back until he spun going into Turn 3.
“Obviously, the spin is what ultimately took us out of contention for the race,” Bell on his spin. “I was trying really hard to get back to the field and trying to do a crossover move. When I hit the apron, I just spun out on accident. Not on purpose.”
Following the spin, Bell’s left rear went down and resulted damage on his sway bar arm, which did him in for good and led to his subpar finish at Phoenix.
Despite this, Bell joins race winner Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer as the four men that’ll compete for the Xfinity Series title in next Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300.
Bell commented that the right four guys made it this far and believes it’ll be a competitive race despite wishing it’ll be bad and he leads every single lap to cap off an illustrious season with a championship.
“I’ll be honest, I think Homestead is going to be a hell of a race,” Bell said. “The Big Three seem to each have their moments where we’re both really strong. The 7 car has been a little bit behind us, but he’s been really good at Homestead in the past, so I think we’ll have a really good race.”