The Countdown to the 2017 NASCAR Championships continued this weekend in New Hampshire and Kentucky, giving three drivers a chance to prove their worth in the chase for the Championship.
Young Gun Christopher Bell kicked off this weekend’s Countdown to the Championship during Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Despite fellow young gun Noah Gragson grabbing the 21 Means 21 Pole Award for this 175-lap race, the driver fell short to a hard-charging Ryan Truex, who led 28 laps of this race before Bell got a strong run off the second corner and buried his Tundra into Turn 3 to shoot past Truex for the lead.
After taking down the brother of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex, Jr. for the lead, Bell powered his No. 4 SiriusXM Toyota to the fifth victory of the season and seventh win of his career. The win earned Bell automatic advancement into the second round of the playoffs, gave him an additional seven playoff points to bring his series-leading total to 47 and widened his advantage over the seven drivers chasing him for the title.
“I knew that it was going to be tough to pass all day,” said Bell. “Fortunately, our truck was so good we were able to get by drivers like Truex to grab the win and further our chances at a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.”
Bell leaves the Magic Mile with a 40-point lead in the 2017 championship battle over the defending series champion Johnny Sauter.
Running a partial NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule this season, Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tyler Reddick spoiled the party for the opening round of the playoffs by earning his first career win in Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Despite NASCAR Next alumnus Kyle Benjamin grabbing the pole for the 200-lap race, Reddick, who hadn’t led a lap in his previous 14 races this season, pushed his way to the front to lead a race-high 66 laps to grab his first XFINITY Series win.
“We had a really fast car last weekend, our mile-and-a-half program has been unreal,” said Reddick. “My Crew Chief Mike Shiplett and all the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond to help me become a better driver and get me to Victory Lane.”
Although Reddick earned his first win, a young Justin Allgaier had more reason to celebrate as he took the XFINITY Series Countdown to the Championship point lead thanks to his top-three finish at Kentucky.
ISM Connect 300
As the dust settled on both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series first set of championship races, the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolled into New Hampshire Motor Speedway for their next step towards the Cup Series title.
Driven to the green flag start by the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs driver Kyle Busch, it wouldn’t be long before this driver would have to face off against his nemesis. Martin Truex, Jr., who started in the top-five, quickly found his way to the top and ahead of the ISM Connect 300 pole sitter to take the Stage 1 win.
Although Truex’s powerful No. 78 Toyota led 112 of the 300 laps, a wreck between Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick on Lap 150 picked up Truex, Jr. out in the collateral damage. From that point on Busch became the dominating force in this race after taking the Stage 2 and final checkered flag.
“That was a pretty intense win,” said Busch. “All in all, it was just a great day. We did what we were supposed to do, and it’s awesome to win here in the Granite State in front of these fans.”
After winning for the third time this season as well as the third time at Loudon and the 41st time in his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Busch has locked up a spot in the Round of 12, and he wasn’t the only one. Larson and fourth-place finisher Brad Keselowski also are assured of advancing on points. With Truex gaining the next round thanks to his victory in last Sunday’s Playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway, four of the 12 berths are taken.
Truex will have to avoid any further calamity if he wants to stay on top following next weekend’s action at Dover. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all the latest in NASCAR news.