Christopher Bell made his second start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Thursday evening at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, but in an unusual way. Bell started the race without ever turning a lap at the mile-and-a-half track due to rain canceling all practice and qualifying for the trucks. Despite the steep learning curve, Bell ran in the top 10 much of the race until a late-race accident left him with a 17th-place finish.
Bell started 16th based on owner's points since rain much of the day washed out practice and qualifying. Not since 1998 had a series raced without spending any time on track. Nobody would have known Bell was making his first start on a track over one-mile in length with no practice, since he gained eight positions before the competition caution on lap 25.
As Bell continued to learn the aerodynamics of the Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra, it was apparent he was figuring it out quickly and was pleased with the handling much of the night. Although he lost positions during pit stops throughout the race, once he was back on track it did not take long for him to gain them back.
Bell was running as high as sixth when he made what should have been his final pit stop on lap 127 of the 150-lap event. After taking four tires and fuel, he returned to the track in 13th place since some teams elected not to pit. With 17 laps remaining, the plan was for him to quickly gain track position with four tires over the drivers who did not pit. Unfortunately after the restart the Tundra got a little loose and Bell tried his best to save it, but backed into the turn-four wall. The truck sustained damage to the rear, but the team was able to repair it enough to finish the race.
Bell restarted the race one lap down and hoped to gain one more position, but several cautions slowed the race. The final accident caused damage to the catch fence, so the race was ended five laps shy of the advertised distance. Bell finished the race in 17th place, one lap down.
"I learned a lot tonight," Bell said. "I was able to learn how air manipulated the truck. The first couple laps were crazy. You wouldn't think with as heavy as the trucks are they would move around, and I almost got thrown into the wall a couple times because I wasn't expecting how much the air affected them. I felt like I did a good job learning how to pass guys and move around to find where your truck is happy at around traffic. I still have to do a better job on pit stops, but my Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra was really strong and hopefully we'll be able to rebound with a good finish soon."
Matt Crafton won the race, followed by KBM's Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, KBM's Daniel Suarez and Timothy Peters rounded out the top five. The No. 54 team remains 16th in the owner's championship point standings.