LOUDON, N.H. — Christopher Bell doesn’t have a secret to his success at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Or at least if he does, he’s not sharing it.

The Norman, Oklahoma driver led 186 of 200 laps Saturday afternoon en route to winning the Roxor 200, his second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series win at NHMS.

Bell now has five wins in 18 races this season for his Joe Gibbs Racing team.

“I wish I could tell you I figured something out (at NHMS), but I just have really good race cars,” said Bell, who has led 279 of the 400 laps over the last two seasons here.

Pole-sitter Cole Custer finished second, more than four seconds behind Bell, who took off following the race’s final restart with fewer than 50 laps remaining. Justin Allgaier was third.

Bell sits second in the series standings, but he’s already got an eye toward the playoffs at the end of the season. Xfinity Series playoffs are comprised of the final seven races of the season, with three rounds of eliminations until the champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

“I feel really good,” Bell said. “We had a really good season last year and then we got to the playoffs and struggled in the last round. If we can continue to get these wins and these playoff points, that would be a big bonus.

“We’ve just had really good cars the last two years, and I’m just the lucky guy who gets to sit in the seat.”

Bell led most of Saturday’s opening stage before a late caution set up a three-wide drag race to the finish won by Brandon Jones. Jones was never in serious contention again and finished ninth.

Bell dominated the second, caution-free 45-lap stage. Custer remained second throughout the final two-thirds of the race, but he was a distant second and never got to Jones’ bumper.

The longer green flag runs went on, the further Bell got ahead. Even on restarts in the third and final stage, Bell was free and clear of Custer before the field got to turn two.

“I think he was just a tick better than us,” Custer, the point leader, said.

• • •

Austin Theriault’s debut as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver was better Saturday than it was Friday, but only marginally.

The team had fuel issues during final Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 practice and spent a lengthy amount of time in the garage area repairing the No. 52 fielded by Rick Ware Racing. Theriault, of Fort Kent, only got limited on-track time and was the slowest car of the 34 that hit the track for the last practice.

“We didn’t get as many laps as I would have liked, but I’m learning every time out,” said Theriault, who got only a half a lap of practice time on Friday as his team worked through technical inspection issues. “We’ve got 301 laps (Sunday) to figure it out even more. It’s been an interesting weekend so far.”

Still, Theriault was excited to become the first Maine driver since Ricky Craven in 2004 to start a Cup race. He qualified 36th in the 37-car field, though several drivers will drop in behind him before the green flag after going to backup cars for accidents in qualifying and practice sessions throughout the weekend.

“It may not have shown up on the stopwatch, but we’ve been running on the same set of tires,” Theriault said of improvements the team has made since the weekend started. “It’s hard to show a lot of speed. It’s more my feel on the track, and I’m trying to get better every time.

“I’m excited. It’s going to be a learning experience racing against the best in the business. I’m just going to try and stay out of the way and not do anything I regret … to try and bring it home.”

• • •

Ron Silk’s crew joked with NASCAR officials on pit road that the race should be called complete while the Norwalk, Connecticut driver led the Whelen Modified Tour race under caution with only a few laps remaining.

The Kevin Stuart-owned team got its wish.

Following a lengthy cleanup for a wreck involving Tyler Rypkema in turn one, NASCAR pulled the plug on what would have been a dramatic finish, handing Silk the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 checkered flag for his third career win.

The win was the first for Stuart at the track.

“We’ll definitely take it. It was a big win for us, for sure,” said Silk, who has three career Whelen Modified Tour wins.

While races typically extend past the scheduled distances in order to guarantee a finish under a green flag, the race was up against a time window so the Xfinity Series race could start on time for a live television broadcast at approximately 4 p.m.

Track officials spent more than 30 minutes repairing damage to the outside retaining wall following the conclusion of the race.

Five-time series champion and current point leader Doug Coby finished second. Chase Dowling was third.

“On a day like today, I think the Modifieds deserve the respect to finish the race,” Coby said. “I don’t care how long it took to fix that wall. We are always faced with this. Put us in a time slot where we have a little bit of extra time to do our thing.

“It just robbed the fans of a good finish.”

Silk empathized with Coby and others who finished behind him.

“It’s disappointing, but listen, I’m happy with it,” Silk said. “I’m glad we won, but I would have liked everybody to see how it would have played out. Certainly no guarantee that I would have won, but we were leading at the right time. Bummer circumstances that we didn’t get to finish it.”

• • •

Heat has been a constant topic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with the giant infield video screens showing repeated reminders to fans to remain hydrated and embrace ways to stay cool. Cooling stations were offered throughout the grandstand areas.

The local temperature was 94 degrees with a heat index of 101 at the green flag of the Xfinity Series race at 4:16 p.m.

One Cup driver was more than happy to embrace the heat — more of which is predicted Sunday.

“There’s nothing I’m going to do to change it,” said Kyle Busch, a three-time New Hampshire winner. “The hotter, the better. Bring it. I’ve been working my ass off for two years for days like this, so let’s go.”


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