Christopher Bell brings good memories to Kentucky

SPARTA, KENTUCKY - JULY 11: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Ruud Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway on July 11, 2019 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway could be a tiebreaker of sorts.

Then again, the Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) could thicken the knot at the top of the series standings.

Christopher Bell and Cole Custer come to Kentucky with four victories each. Both already are shoo-ins for the postseason Playoffs. Clearly, if either Bell or Custer should win, the victor would take the win-column lead in the series.

But the race has implications that go beyond bragging rights. The 17th event of the season is the last race on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway before the series returns to Las Vegas in September. The championship, of course, is decided on 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Bell, the defending winner of the Alsco 300, was fastest in opening Xfinity practice at Kentucky. Custer topped the chart in final practice at 180.210 mph, the fastest lap of the day.

Tyler Reddick, the reigning series champion and the 2017 winner at Kentucky, has three victories this year and could join Bell and Custer with a fourth. Reddick was third in both practice sessions on Thursday.

But Bell has to be considered at least a marginal favorite. His win at Kentucky started a streak of three straight trips to Victory lane last year.

“For whatever reason, Kentucky Speedway has been really good to me,” Bell said Thursday. “I’ve been able to win my last two starts here in the Truck Series and the Xfinity Series. We’re off to a good start this weekend. We were quickest in first practice and hopefully we can keep it up.”

Greg Engle