By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
After becoming an early season favorite for the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, Christopher Bell’s regular season championship hopes took a hit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although the Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned another top-10 finish, his championship rival, and points leader, Justin Allgaier took the victory, extending his points lead.
After the final restart of the Lilly Diabetes 250, Bell attempted to use the restricted aero package to his advantage, as he attempted to sling-shot past Allgaier but ran out of momentum in his No. 20 GameStop Team Sonic Racing Toyota Camry. Without that momentum, Bell was freight-trained by Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott among others.
By the time he regained momentum, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender lost contact with the lead pack. Bell took the checkered flag in seventh.
“We had an opportunity to run good,” Bell admitted. “I tried to pass the 7 (Justin Allgaier) car and maybe I shouldn’t have attempted to pass the 7 car so early. I didn’t have anyone up there that was going to help me anyway. Overall, we got some good stage points there one time and ran seventh, so good momentum in our Toyota Camry. We’ve run 25th or worse the last couple of weeks, so this is good momentum.”
Late in Stage 1, Bell narrowly avoided disaster for the third week in a row. As Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler tangled on lap 23, he slammed on the brakes to miss Sadler. While Bell emerged unscathed, Austin Cindric and Spencer Boyd were collected when their splitters dug into the rain-soaked grass, destroying their cars.
The seventh-place finish moves Bell up to third in the championship points standings. However, he is 52-points behind Allgaier, and the chance at earning a 15-point bonus at the end of the regular season. With the duo currently tied in Playoff Points, Allgaier would start the Playoffs with a six-point advantage based on their current positions in the standings.
Only a complete disaster for Allgaier at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and a perfect weekend for Bell can earn the young driver a regular season championship.