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AKA Leadfoot
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LOUDON, New Hampshire — Now that Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch has bowed out of the Xfinity Series, perhaps Christopher Bell might be interested picking up the slack in victory lane.

Making his first Xfinity start in nearly two years, Bell dominated Saturday’s Ambetter Get Vaccinated 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Starting 14th, Bell quickly zoomed to the front and won both stages while leading 151 of 200 laps (including the final 146).

“What I have figured out is I’ve got really, really fast race cars, and I just love being here with Joe Gibbs Racing,” Bell, who won his third consecutive Xfinity start at New Hampshire and is a perfect 3 for 3 at the 1.058-mile oval dating to 2019, told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “All these Supras I have the last three times I’ve been here have been amazing.”

Justin Allgaier finished a career-best second at New Hampshire, followed by Daniel Hemric. The top five was rounded out by Austin Cindric and Harrison Burton, both of whom were confirmed for 2022 Cup rides this week.

It was Bell’s 17th career Xfinity victory but first since Nov. 2, 2019 at Texas Motor Speedway during the Norman, Oklahoma, native’s final season on the circuit.

Bell focused solely on Xfinity last year as a Cup Series rookie, and he didn’t have any Xfinity races on his 2021 schedule until JGR called a few weeks ago with an unexpected vacancy in the No. 54 Toyota for New Hampshire.

Bell has no other Xfinity races planned — and he can run no more than four and none once the playoffs begin — so it seems unlikely he will make a dent in Busch’s record of 205 career victories. But he won’t be turning down any opportunities.

“Especially over the last two seasons, I think it would have been really, really good for me to capitalize on it with the no practice, no qualifying, hop in the race car for the green flag,” Bell said in a postrace news conference. “I think running the Xfinity car would have been a pretty big advantage for me to do that.

“Moving forward next year it seems like practice is going to come back. The Cup cars are going to be completely different than the Xfinity cars, so I don’t know how much of an advantage it would be next year, but I love racing, and I want to race seven days a week, so if the opportunity comes, I’d like to do it.

“I definitely talked to them earlier in the season, especially running some of the road courses. Really any of the places that don’t have practice and qualifying, I’ve tried to get races, but the schedule is full, so unfortunately I didn’t get any except for this one, and this was just kind of a late notice. I’m glad it opened up, and I was able to do it.”

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With the driving trio of Bell, Busch and Ty Gibbs, the No. 54 has won seven of the past nine races and eight overall this year.

Busch is out of starts after going 5 for 5 this season and declaring his Xfinity career over; Bell said Friday the race originally had been planned for Ty Gibbs.

Bell, 26, joined Busch as the second driver to win three consecutive Xfinity races at New Hampshire.

Saturday was the sixth consecutive Xfinity victory for Joe Gibbs Racing at New Hampshire

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

NOTABLE: Noah Gragson skidded into the wall after being bumped by AJ Allmendinger but maintained control of his No. 9 Chevrolet without bringing out a caution flag. … Brandon Jones finished 38th after running into Riley Herbst on a restart pileup on Lap 26. … In his second career Xfinity Series start, NASCAR Modified veteran Patrick Emerling was having a solid showing for Our Motorsports before suffering a flat right-front tire and hitting the wall on Lap 149.

NEXT: The series will race Aug. 7 at Watkins Glen International (4 p.m. ET, CNBC).

 
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