By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – While fighting for the race win in the final laps of Saturday’s Indiana 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Xfinity Series championship leaders Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell collided – their cars hitting the wall and their trophy hopes at the historic venue halted as well.
Both drivers were checked, cleared and immediately released by medical personnel, but it was an unusual checkered flag circumstance for the pair who have combined to win 10 races this season and were contending door-to-door for a victory at the famed race track before things went sideways for them with eight laps remaining.
Kyle Busch, who was running third at the time of Reddick and Bell accident, inherited the lead and held off the field to earn his fourth victory in this race – all from pole position. It is his sixth career win at the track, counting two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories as well.
But in the waning laps as Bell and Reddick raced side-by-side, it looked like the Xfinity Series full-timers would settle the race win amongst themselves.
“I don’t exactly know what happened,” said the Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell, who was credited with a 29th place finish. “Both of us had our foots down going into [Turn] two and I guess I slid just enough being on the inside of him there.
“Proud of everyone on this Rheem team, they brought us a really fast Supra. We’re going to Vegas which has been pretty good to us in the past and hopefully we can win there.”
The defending series champion Reddick has been the championship leader for 22 of the 25 weeks this season. His 30th place showing in the final order Saturday was easily the worst finish of the season for the Richard Childress Racing driver, who has tallied an amazing 21 top-10 and 19 top-five finishes.
As with Bell, Reddick attributed the collision to a simple case of hard racing among the title contenders. He also expressed his gratitude for the safe conditions at the track.
“No one in this garage or in NASCAR or in racing in general should ever question Christopher’s driving ability, that wasn’t the issue there,” Reddick said of his rival. “His car just simply got loose and we just got together and didn’t have a lot of race track.
“It was the end of the race, we were going for it, type deal. Nothing against Christopher, he did nothing wrong his car just got loose. It’s part of racing at this place and going for the win.”
The third driver in the series’ Big 3 of 2019, Cole Custer, had ironically run behind Reddick and Bell for much of the race, but was able to guide his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to a seventh-place finish.
All the three of the drivers – Reddick, Bell and Custer – earned points in both the race’s first and second stages.
Despite the accident, Reddick still holds a 50-point championship lead over Bell and a 113-point lead over Custer heading into the regular season finale next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.