ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — In a two-lap shootout during Saturday afternoon’s CTECH Manufacturing 180 at Road America, Christopher Bell checked out from the competition to claim his sixth Xfinity Series win of the season.
Bell found himself battling the best of the best when it comes to road-course racing inside the final laps between AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric. But when Gray Gaulding went into the gravel in Turn 1, the full-course caution waved and set up the eight-mile dash to the finish.
“Man, I’m honestly in shock,” Bell said. “I really butchered qualifying and tore the crap out of the left front. I felt like once we got in the race there, we’d be able to drive by those guys. Instead, they dropped the green flag and they were driving by me. That wasn’t much fun.
“Then I told Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) I was really, really tight. We got those tires off and he said the left-front was hurt pretty bad. We got pretty good there when we put our new set of tires on.
“That strategy worked out well for us coming in there (with 14 to go) and then the yellow coming out. This car was really, really fast today. We’ve had a great road course season.”
On the final restart, Bell cleared then-second-place Allmendinger. It was Cindric, though, who pitted during the last caution and put on a show trying to charge from his 20th restarting position.
By the white flag, Cindric had passed 15 cars and found himself in the clutches of then-second-place Matt DiBenedetto. When DiBenedetto ended up spinning his No. 18 iK9 Toyota Supra in Turn 14, Cindric crossed the start-finish line second — 1.891 seconds behind Bell.
“We talked about a five-to-go plan, that was like a green-white-checkered,” said Cindric, who came a position short of claiming three straight road-course wins in August. “I wasn’t 100 percent confident, but at the same time, we were battling a lot of wheel hop after four or five laps on tires and we had a lot more than on tires.
“In this kind of racing, you pretty much know that you’re going to get used up if your slower, so we wanted to go on offense and that was our strategy all day and we probably just needed one or two laps to get our Menards–Richmond Ford Mustang in Victory Lane. All in all, a good day, good points. P-2 is all right.”
Cindric described his 19-car charge through the field in two laps in one fitting word: chaos
“I passed a lot of cars that just ended up overdriving corners and missing corners,” he said. “It was chaos, it was insane. I think it’s why all these people show up at Road America and enjoy this type of racing.
“You never know what you’re going to get, it always comes down to those last lap dashes to the finish, I’m glad to be able to put on a show at a place like this.”
For Bell, it was his 14th career Xfinity Series victory but first on a road course.
“I guess I just get lucky on these things, that’s for sure,” Bell said.
Allmendinger admitted he spun the tires during the last restart and later collided with Noah Gragson while battling in the top five. Allmendinger became involved in another off-course exchange on the same lap and limped to a 24th-place finish after making a pit stop on the final lap.
Behind Bell and Cindric, points leader and Bristol Motor Speedway winner Tyler Reddick finished third. Gragson was fourth, and Kaz Grala rounded out the top five.
Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe, Jeremy Clements, Justin Allgaier and Cole Custer comprised the remainder of the top 10.
For Allgaier, the top 10 was a relief after nosediving into the gravel in Turn 1 due to a flat left-front tire on the last lap of Stage 1. Falling off the lead lap and getting the lap back, the JR Motorsports driver used the remainder of the race to earn his 15th top 10 of the year.
Playoff contender Custer also had an impressive lap-down rebound after running off course during the first lap of Stage 2 and mowing down several track signs. Earning the free pass late in the race, Custer used aggressive driving in the final run to earn his 15th top 10 of the season.
With three races remaining in the regular Xfinity Series season, next up is a throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway with the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).