SPARTA, Ky. — Christopher Bell couldn't have started any worse in Friday night's NASCAR Xfinity Series race, which made his impressive victory all the more satisfying.
Bell rallied from the rear of the field after a tire change due to a spin during qualifying. He steadily worked his way up the field and passed Justin Allgaier with 17 laps remaining, then held off Daniel Hemric to win the 300-mile race at Kentucky Speedway.
"That was pretty cool, man," said Bell, after driving his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to his second victory this season.
"To be able to come from the back here at Kentucky and just really shows how good of car we have. This Camry was extremely good on the long run. Even on the short run too, I could fire off and have really good restarts, so I'm just thankful that everyone stayed behind me and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing believes in me. It's a dream come true to be racing in the Xfinity Series, let alone standing in victory lane one more time."
Bell, who has three career victories in the Xfinity Series, moved within 17 points of co-leaders Elliott Sadler (12th) and Hemric. He trails third-place Cole Custer by 14.
Cup Series regular Kyle Busch (Toyota) led three times for a race-high 111 laps and won the first stage but finished third. Allgaier was fourth in a Chevrolet and pole winner Custer (Ford) fifth. John Hunter Nemechek won the second stage but finished seventh in a Chevrolet.
"We struggled all night long with our Chevrolet," said Allgaier, who led 32 laps. "We just got way too tight at the end."
Bell meanwhile had to guard against becoming uptight because of his start. Being patient helped him recover to stand seventh after the second stage on lap 90 of 200 and position himself to make a final charge.
"He did a nice job of working his way into the top-20 really quick," crew chief Jason Ratcliff said of Bell, "and then we took a big swing at it on the first pit stop to try to get, you know, the car under him — the rear end underneath him. From that point we had good track position, so it was just a matter of tweaking on it to the end."
Allgaier led Bell by eight car lengths late on the 1.5-mile track and seemed in control before Bell and Hemric both got past him. Hemric closed the gap some but couldn't catch Bell, the 2017 Truck Series champion. The Xfinity rookie weaved through lapped traffic and went on to earn his first Kentucky victory by .848 seconds.