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Hailie Deegan and her dad Brian take USA TODAY to the dirt track near their Southern California home.
USA TODAY Sports

SPARTA, Ky.  — Christopher Bell’s race started with a spin.

During his qualifying round, Bell spun out and was fortunate not to slam into a wall. His consequence was starting 12th.

Yet over the course of a seven-caution race, the rookie gradually passed car after car and claimed the lead and the win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 on Friday night at Kentucky Speedway. Bell’s win is the third of his career.

Before the race, he and his crew thought they had a car that could win, or at least finish in the top five. The qualifying round could’ve changed that, but the 23-year-old said the actual race was all about his mindset.

“You just have to tell yourself going into it and continue to tell yourself a half-lap in, a lap in, five laps in, 10 laps in that it’s a 200-lap race,” he said afterward.

Still, after Stage 1, he was 14th. After Stage 2, he was seventh.

“I was getting impatient,” he said. “But the next thing I know, I look at the board and I think we’re only on Lap 92 or 93 and we still have over half the race to go.”

Kyle Busch, who’s won this race three times, led the majority of the race (111 laps). But toward the end of the race, he lost his spot and drifted back to his eventual third-place finish. Had he won, he’d own the track record for victories.

When Bell was asked about Busch’s slowdown, which Bell’s crew chief Jason Ratcliff said likely came from hitting the wall twice, Bell shrugged off Busch and said “I guess it shows he’s human.”

The rookie and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Rheem Toyota led the final 14 laps of the race.

In his post-race press conference, he remained humble. Rather than taking pride in a literal come-from-behind win, he said the crew consistently put him in good positions and it’s up to him to execute in the same manner.

“I just gotta keep digging,” he said. “Two wins is not a successful year for us. We go to the track every single week with a shot to win. For the most part, we start the race with a shot to win every week. It’s just a matter of me capitalizing.”

Bell should give himself credit. Even when it appeared he’d start a race with a slim shot to win, he capitalized and made a driving legend look “human” in the process.

Results

Saturday At Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Ky.

Lap length: 1.50 miles (Start position in parentheses)

1. (12) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200 laps, 44 points.

2. (5) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 2038.

3. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200, 0.

4. (2) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200, 41.

5. (1) Cole Custer, Ford, 200, 49.

6. (8) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 200, 38.

7. (6) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 200, 48.

8. (9) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200, 29.

9. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 200, 0.

10. (4) Austin Cindric, Ford, 200, 40.

11. (7) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 200, 33.

12. (10) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200, 26.

13. (13) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 200, 24.

14. (16) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, 0.

15. (17) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 200, 22.

16. (19) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 200, 21.

17. (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200, 20.

18. (20) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200, 19.

19. (24) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 198, 18.

20. (15) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 198, 17.

21. (26) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196, 16.

22. (33) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 196, 15.

23. (30) David Starr, Chevrolet, 195, 14.

24. (36) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 195, 13.

25. (37) Blake Jones, Chevrolet, 194, 12.

26. (27) Brandon Hightower, Toyota, 194, 11.

27. (18) Ty Majeski, Ford, 193, 10.

28. (34) Josh Bilicki, Toyota, 193, 9.

29. (38) Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 192, 8.

30. (39) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 190, 7.

31. (35) Chad Finchum, Chevrolet, transmission, 172, 6.

32. (25) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 168, 5.

33. (22) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, accident, 161, 4.

34. (23) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, suspension, 119, 3.

35. (31) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, garage, 107, 2.

36. (11) Brandon Jones, Toyota, accident, 104, 12.

37. (29) Timmy Hill, Dodge, fuelpump, 55, 1.

38. (32) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, vibration, 25, 1.

39. (40) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, overheating, 9, 0.

40. (28) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, electrical, 6, 1.

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Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.884 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 16 minutes, 29 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.848 seconds.

Caution Flags: 7 for 32 laps.

Lead Changes: 8 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Custer 1-14; K. Busch 15-79; J. Nemechek 80-93; K. Busch 94-134; M. Annett 135-138; K. Busch 139-143; D. Hemric 144-151; J. Allgaier 152-183; C. Bell 184-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch 3 times for 111 laps; J. Allgaier 1 time for 32 laps; C. Bell 1 time for 17 laps; J. Nemechek 1 time for 14 laps; C. Custer 1 time for 14 laps; D. Hemric 1 time for 8 laps; M. Annett 1 time for 4 laps.

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