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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, November 11, 2018 1:00 am

Auto racing

Bell wins way to Xfinity title round

Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Crashes in consecutive weeks had backed Christopher Bell into a corner that jeopardized his strong rookie season in the Xfinity Series.

But Bell thrives in must-win moments, and Saturday at ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix was another example of him delivering when everything was on the line. Bell won – the only result that would have advanced him into the championship round – and will now race for a second NASCAR national championship.

Bell won the Truck Series title last year, moved to the Xfinity Series in a Toyota from Joe Gibbs Racing, and his win Saturday was a series-high seventh. Had he not won, though, two weeks of bad luck would have wiped out his season.

“The pressure was on and I am just one of those guys who does really well in those situations,” Bell said. “Everything is on the line and I am just thankful I pulled through for my team. These guys are the ones who build the race cars that are going to win, whether I am driving them or not.”

The championship four for Saturday are Bell, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick. The group represents all three manufacturers with a Ford driver, Toyota driver and two Chevrolet drivers, and come from four teams – Bell for Gibbs, Custer for Stewart-Haas Racing, Hemric for Richard Childress Racing and Reddick for JR Motorsports.

NHRA title to teen

In Pomona, California, Tanner Gray became the youngest NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season champion by qualifying at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals.

The 19-year-old Pro Stock driver from New Mexico has seven victories this season. In the Countdown to the Championship, he has two wins and has topped the points throughout the playoffs.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. took the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock qualifying with a 6.510-second run at 211.49 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro.

Leah Pritchett topped Top Fuel qualifying, Ron Capps was the fastest in Funny Car, and Matt Smith led the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.

Moffitt wins trucks race

Brett Moffitt won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, to earn a spot in the four-man title chase at Homestead. It was his fifth victory of the season as he beat Noah Gragson by 0.456. Gragson earned the fourth and final championship spot on points. GMS Racing teammates Johnny Sauter and Justin Hale already earned spots in the final four at Homestead.

Gibbs signs a new Earnhardt

Jeffrey Earnhardt has landed a nine-race Xfinity Series deal with Joe Gibbs Racing for next season beginning at Daytona.

Earnhardt is the 29-year-old grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt. His father is Earnhardt's eldest child, Kerry.