Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell, Elliott Sadler Top Darlington XFINITY Practices

Friday afternoon brought XFINITY teams out to play for two hours on the slick high banks at Darlington Raceway.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell turned in a lap at 169.356 mph on his final lap of the first session to lead the day.

Practice No. 1

Christopher Bell made a late run during the first practice at Darlington for the XFINITY series. On his 27th lap of practice, Bell laid down a 169.356 mph lap, which was the fastest of the session. His time bumped Ross Chastain from the top position, where he’d been for much of the session. Chastain’s best time was at an average speed of 169.231 mph. Cole Custer was third quick at 169.025 mph. Those three drivers were the only XFINITY competitors above 169 mph.

The fourth fastest time of the session came from Elliott Sadler. The JR Motorsports driver laid down a lap at 168.984 mph on his second circuit of the practice. Rounding out the top five in the first XFINITY practice session was Ty Dillon. Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet ran a lap at 168.798 mph.

Bell and Tyler Reddick topped the average speed chart with speeds of 166.143 and 166.134 mph over a 10-lap run. Both laid down their averages over their first 10 laps on-track.

Ryan Sieg, who is running a throwback to the Maxwell House Fords of the early 1990s driven by Bobby Labonte and Sterling Marlin this weekend, was 22nd quickest in the session.  However, he had a heart-stopping moment in Turn 4 as he nearly wiped out his Chevrolet Camaro.  Quick hands and throttle control kept him from stuffing his car in the wall.

Bell was also fastest over a 10-lap run in the session.  His best 10-lap run was done at an average of 166.143 mph, which would have been good enough for 17th on the speed chart.  Only three other drivers, led by Reddick, completed a run of that length.

Only 33 of the 41 cars entered completed laps during the session.


Practice No. 2

The final trip to Darlington Raceway is off to a good start for Sadler. The series veteran ran a 165.995 mph lap on his 22nd lap of the final practice session. Sadler bested his teammate Reddick by just over eight-hundredths of a second. Reddick was second quick with a 165.256 mph lap around Darlington’s egg-shaped oval. Third fast and the last driver over 165 mph was Bell, who led the initial practice session. Bell turned a lap at speed of 165.092 mph. Brad Keselowski was fourth on the speed charts at 164.981 mph, just ahead of Custer who was the last driver in the top five of final practice. Custer’s lap time was at 164.954 mph.

The best 10 lap average of the final practice belonged to Reddick. He averaged 162.745 mph over his first 10 laps of the practice session. Keselowski was second in 10-lap average at 162.437 mph that was run from laps 15 through 24 of his practice. Third in average was Kevin Harvick at 162.220 mph. Bell and Chastain rounded out the top five in 10-lap average for the XFINITY Series.

Not to be outdone by Sieg in the first session, Brandon Brown saved himself from a big wreck in Turn 4.

Unlike Sieg, it appears that Brown had already gotten himself a Darlington Stripe prior to his big moment.  Regardless, Brown was able to drive his Coastal Carolina University Chevrolet back to the garage reasonably unscathed to get some adjustments.  Brown, who ran in the top 15 at times last year before finishing 20th, was 24th fastest lap

17 of the 37 cars that set times during the session completed 10 consecutive laps on-track.  Of those drivers, Reddick had the fastest average at 162.745 mph.  Keselowski was second, followed by Harvick, Bell and Chastain.


Qualifying for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. Saturday afternoon.  The session will air live on NBCSN starting at 12:30 p.m.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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