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Xfinity Series: Bell earns second straight win

Special to the Union Leader

July 22. 2018 1:17AM
Christopher Bell speeds toward the finish line during Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series Lakes Region 250 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. (NASCAR PHOTO)

LOUDON - Christopher Bell, 23 from Norman, Okla., won his second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series event and his first ever at New Hampshire Motor Speedway by holding off Cup star Brad Keselowski Saturday in the Lakes Region 200.

Bell, sporting four fresh tires on his Rheem Toyota No. 20 to Keselowski's two, took the lead with 18 laps remaining. He put some distance between himself and Keselowski before having it trimmed in the closing laps.

Ryan Preece of Berlin, Conn., in contention most of the way, finished third ahead of fifth-place Matt Tiftt after threatening for more.

"Christopher Bell drove very well," praised Keselowski. "We knew it might come down to the two of us. The potential was there to win one. Preece had a ton of short run speed, though. He was tough."

Bell won the first stage of the race. Keselowski and Elliott Sadler led for stretches as the race wore on before pit stops shuffled the field.

Soon after Bell took the lead on lap 119, Keselowski began rapidly rising back to the front. He reached Bell's bumper on lap 130 and they began to swap the lead until Keselowski took command with 50 laps left, a lead he held until the late race restarts.

The race was red-flagged with 27 laps to go after Jeremy Clemens plowed into the barrel barrier at the entrance to pit road.

Preece, in the Falmouth Toyota No. 18, made some entertaining bids to race under both Bell and Keselowski as the laps wore down.

"I could reach them early on the restarts, but they got the better of me on the longer runs," Preece said. "I was hoping for a green-white-checkers because the car was too tight once we got racing. Third place is great; you always want to win."

Bell, who held up under pressure from Kyle Busch to win at Kentucky a week ago, said that taking four tires when he did was the key.

"The No. 22 (Keselowski) was faster than me much of the day, so we knew we had to get better. I was fine with the PJ-1 grip treatment they put down on the track, especially on the inside. If they put some farther out to the wall, it would be better yet."

John Hunter Nemechek completed the top five, finishing fourth. Positions 6-10 went to Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, Sadler, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon.

Brad Keselowski poses with the Xfinity Pole Award after posting the fastest lap during Friday's qualifying for Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series Lakes Region 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Keselowski finished second. (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images via NASCAR)

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