There will be drama when the Xfinity Series heads to Phoenix next weekend to figure out what drivers will make up the Championship Four.
Christopher Bell won’t have to be any part of that.
Bell, who came into Saturday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 first in points but not locked into the final four, took care of that by pulling away to win at Texas Motor Speedway and secure a championship spot.
Bell, who now has 16 wins in 72 Xfinity Series starts, topped Ross Chastain by 5.65 seconds for the win. Playoff contender Austin Cindric finished third.
“That was pretty special to win here at Texas,” Bell said. “I knew we were competitive. Us and the 2 [Tyler Reddick] were really similar early on. I started having brake problems. I really started struggling. We had a couple of long stops, and the handle started coming back. Now we can go to Phoenix with one thing on our mind, and that’s trying to win.”
The race was a homecoming of sorts for Bell, who is an Oklahoma native and will be moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2020.
“This is my home NASCAR track,” said Bell, who led 101 of the 200 laps. “To be able to win my last one here [in the Xfinity Series] is really special.”
The eighth win of the season for the driver of the No. 20 Toyota capped a night in which several of the drivers in championship contention had rough outings at TMS, but the top four drivers in points remained the same.
Cole Custer (eighth place) is still second in points, Reddick (29th) is third and Justin Allgaier (sixth) is fourth. Reddick was the polesitter Saturday but crashed on the backstretch, finishing his night after 160 laps.
“I just didn’t do a good job of executing tonight,” said Reddick, who led for 33 laps. “That’s what I deserve if I can’t keep it up out front. I just didn’t do the part I needed to.”
Chase Briscoe’s chances of advancing took the biggest hit. Briscoe started the night just two points behind Allgaier for the fourth spot, but he finished 22nd and is now 18 points behind Allgaier. He had contact with the wall in the final stage, but instead of pitting, his crew opted to keep him out for track position. That move backfired when his front right tire blew.