Robert Gray – NASCAR Wire Service
NEWTON, Iowa — Christopher Bell knows a lot about long, dominant runs.
The seasoned open-wheel racer’s won the last three Chili Bowl Nationals in his native, Oklahoma — and Sunday led an astounding 186 laps of Sunday’s CircuitCity.com 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race while cruising to a commanding victory at Iowa Speedway.
The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing/Ruud Toyota pulled away from Cole Custer on the final restart with 10 laps to go and powered to his series-leading fourth victory of the season on Father’s Day.
“Man, I got to win at Dover on Mother’s Day weekend, or, I guess it was the week before with me mom there,” said Bell, who has won five of the past eight short track races in the series. “Now I just won on Father’s Day with my dad here with my dad here, so it was pretty special.
Custer settled for second and adopted a no-hard-feelings approach to the slight contact from Bell that preceded losing his brief late lead.
“I think it was racing,” said Custer, who led the first 54 laps before Bell seized near-total control. “I think every driver will agree that this place puts on the best racing that we go to, so it was fun. Christopher and them had the best car all day. I feel like we caught up to them a good amount. We just need a little more time to work on it.”
Justin Allgaier — who edged Bell in this race a year ago — took third. Harrison Burton and Zane Smith rounded out the top five.
Tyler Reddick, who finished 15th after battling early car trouble, saw his points lead over Bell shaved from 89 to 51.
Bell’s won two straight races at Iowa and has powered to Victory Lane in five of the past eight short track events.
“This Ruud Supra was outstanding,” Bell said. “Hopefully we can continue to bring these type of race cars to the race track.”
Bell won all three stages. He led 160 consecutive laps at one point, but Custer narrowly edged him in the race off pit road with 28 laps to go. That gave Custer the favored line up high, but Bell eventually found enough grip on the bottom to regain the lead six laps later.
Still, he couldn’t fully breathe easy.
The race’s final caution flag flew after Chad Finchum’s No. 42 car dinged the wall in Turn 2.
Custer gamely tried to mount a challenge on the low side, but Bell’s car again proved to be too fast and nimble to be overtaken.
Custer posted his eighth top-five finish of the season. Both he and Reddick — who along with Bell make up the series’ so-called “Big Three” in 2019 — own three wins each this season.
“We’re close,” Custer said. “We’re just gonna come back better next time.”
Bell’s second straight series victory at Iowa ended a streak in which there had been nine different winners in a row at the 7/8-mile track.
And other than Custer, no one stood a chance at preventing Bell’s repeat triumph in the heartland.
“I think our potential is really high,” Bell said. “Our big track stuff, I feel like we still need to gain on a little bit and obviously we’re working hard to do that. This was a much-needed win.”
But what’s the next step?
Bell was asked about whether he deserves a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride, but he wouldn’t bite.
“My dream was to make a living driving a race car,” Bell said. “And I’ve been able to do that for numerous years now. So if I’m truck racing, sprint car racing, midget racing, I’m already fulfilling my dream. So whether I’m running Xfinity or Cup, I’m living my dream right now, so I’ll be happy.”
Brett Moffitt takes home state victory in eventful Iowa race
NEWTON, Iowa — Brett Moffitt shed his race suit. He simmered silently in street clothes, sipped on a beer, and stewed over what seemed to be a missed opportunity at his home state track.
Then strange, but welcomed news arrived — and that brew tasted somewhat sweet rather than extremely bitter.
Ross Chastain’s No. 44 truck, which he apparently wheeled to a much-needed victory, had failed post-race inspection because of being too low in the front.
Suddenly, a sense of second-place dejection transformed into mild celebration, as Moffitt repeated as the official race winner of Sunday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series M&M’s 200 race at Iowa Speedway.
“Obviously I was very disappointed,” said Moffitt, the defending series champ who grew up in nearby Grimes, Iowa.
“It’s a big change of emotions — and obviously this is not the way I want to win it. As a driver, I still know I got beat on the track, which is frustrating. But back in the beginning of the year when NASCAR implemented this new system, it was to clear up the Tuesday disqualifications and the encumbered wins and let the fans know and everybody else know who actually won the race. I’d still rather take the checkered and be the first one to it, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.”
Ben Rhodes took second and Harrison Burton, Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen completed the top five.
Moffitt’s win cemented his spot in the series playoffs. It also earned his team $50,000 for winning the second stage of the Triple Truck Challenge, while giving him a sunny Father’s Day ending on what had seemed to be a deeply disappointing afternoon.
“I was halfway to the airport,” Moffitt said. “I was already changed in the motor home drinking some beers and headed to the airport and mad as hell. I didn’t know and then the team called me and said, ‘Head back this way.’ So obviously there was an issue, but I think for the integrity of the sport, it’s the right thing to do. Obviously I came out on the good end of it. Obviously if I were in Ross’s shoes, I probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about it, but it is what it is.”
That’s an odd, unexpected victory — and a sweeping change of emotions for the driver of the No. 24 Destiny Homes Smart Series Chevrolet.
“I went from drinking my sorrows away to being happy,” Moffitt quipped.
Chastain had dominated the final 141 laps. He declared for Xfinity Series points earlier this season, but shifted to chasing the Truck Series playoffs this month and was giddy about doing the “hard part” — winning a race — as accruing enough points to be in the top-20 would almost certainly happen.
But instead of being one step closer to qualifying for the playoffs, he lost ground and finished last.
“Basically we have a procedure and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights, the front and the rear of the vehicles,” said NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Managing Director Brad Moran, who spoke to media to explain the decision.
“Unfortunately the 44 (truck) was low on the front — extremely low. We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle. They put air the tires.”
Then, Moran added, officials wait at least 5-10 minutes to inspect the car again, but that re-inspection failed to help Chastain’s team. “Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all,” Moran said.
Moran said, per the rulebook, the team is allowed to appeal the decision and the process would be expedited. The No. 44’s team must indicate by noon ET Monday if it plans to appeal.
The jaw-dropping post-race development was preceded by a dramatic on-track clash. Austin Hill took exception to contact from Johnny Sauter and responded with a push to Sauter, which sent his No. 13 into the wall.
Sauter did not pit. Instead, as Hill wheeled his No. 16 ARCO National Construction Toyota back around the track, Sauter retaliated, using his No. 13 Tenda Products Ford to spin out Hill.
The incident ended Sauter’s day. Hill recovered to claim 13th. The shared animosity is likely to simmer long past this weekend.
“If he wants to come talk to me about it he can,” Hill said after the race. “But there won’t be nice words.”
Moffitt wasn’t muttering “nice words” after the race, either, until his phone buzzed and he smiled as the surprise winner.
“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” Moffitt said. “I’ve been through that a lot in my career and thankfully it worked out in my favor for once.”
2nd Annual ‘Over the Edge Charlotte’
set for Sept. 24-25
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The NASCAR Foundation and NASCAR Hall of Fame Foundation has announced the return of the innovative, second annual “Over the Edge Charlotte” fundraising event, set for Sept. 24-25.
Tuesday, Sept. 24 is designated as “VIP Day” featuring celebrity participants rappelling 100 feet down the side of the Embassy Suites Charlotte Uptown – with the NASCAR Hall of Fame as the backdrop. Wednesday, Sept. 25 is “Individual Rappel Day” and is limited to the first 130 people raising $1,000 in support of their rappelling; registration is available on-line at OverTheEdgeCharlotte.org.
One of those celebrities electing to traverse – in reverse – the 10-story hotel is current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto, who also took part last year. He has also enlisted his wife Taylor to join him on a fundraising team.
“Last year my wife Taylor signed me up for the event without me knowing, initially because I’m afraid of heights,” DiBenedetto said. “But the event is for a great cause, so I couldn’t say no.
“It helped me a little bit with my fear of heights. The building was tall enough to be scary but still short enough for me to follow-through and not chicken out. This year, I’m making Taylor do the event with me since she’s scared of everything.”
This year’s event follows a highly successful 2018 debut when nearly 100 rappellers – including seven current NASCAR drivers – raised nearly $200,000.
Rusty Wallace, a NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and a member of The NASCAR Foundation’s board of directors, is another returning rappeller who has participated in the Foundation’s rappelling events in both Daytona and Charlotte.
“This return of Over the Edge gives us another opportunity to impact the lives of a lot of kids right here in the Charlotte community, through The NASCAR Foundation and NASCAR Hall of Fame Foundation,” Wallace said. “It’s great to see friends like Matt join us again this year, and we look forward to having many others involved as this event grows.”
In addition to DiBenedetto and Wallace, confirmed VIPs include former NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kurt Busch, NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Jeremy Clements and Charlotte radio personality Woody, from 106.5 The END “Woody and Wilcox” show.
Proceeds from Over the Edge Charlotte will be targeted specifically to provide resources to children battling pediatric cancer through The NASCAR Foundation’s Speediatrics Children’s Fund and to provide scholarships to students in the Charlotte area to participate in the NASCAR Hall of Fame STEM education workshops through the NASCAR Hall of Fame Foundation.
The Embassy Suites Charlotte Uptown is the event’s Building Partner while Ally, Bank of America, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), NASCAR, Pocono Raceway, Publix and Richard Childress Racing are designated as Landing Zone Sponsors. Adams Outdoor and iHeart Media are official Media Sponsors. The Chicken Coop is once again sponsored by Looie Mattioli.
Members of the Charlotte community are encouraged to join the cause, by registering at OverTheEdgeCharlotte.org to begin fundraising.