Christopher Bell has been slithering in anticipation of Friday night's Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in Fort Worth for multiple reasons. First of all, the mile-and-half track is located just 160 miles north of where he grew up in Norman, Okla., and serves as his homecoming race. Secondly, with an eighth-place finish in last year's fall NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at TMS under his snakeskin belt, it will be the first track on the 2016 Truck Series schedule that Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender will already have raced at when the haulers unload.
The 21-year-old wheelman, who cut his racing fangs on dirt in micro sprints in his home state of Oklahoma when he was six years old, will be making the 14th start of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career Friday. Bell burst onto the scene with a fifth-place finish in his series debut at Iowa Speedway in Newtown last June. Then in just his third series start, he led a race-high 106 laps en route to victory in the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Combined in seven starts during the 2015 season, the open-wheel dirt standout posted two top-five and three top-10 finishes.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has shown speed throughout the 2016 Truck Series season, but was snakebitten when it came to results early in the year. Bell was in a position for the win in the closing laps at both Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway, but late-race accidents left him with undeserving results. Following another late-race accident and another subpar result at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, he found himself 22nd in the Truck Series championship standings with a five-week break in the schedule to ponder a disappointing start to his first full-time season.
Fortunately for Bell, he was able to spend the downtime on the Truck Series schedule racing in other disciplines. A win in Kyle Busch Motorsports' Super Late Model at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C., and another for Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series at Salem (Ind.) Speedway helped improve his confidence and spurred improved results when he returned to his No. 4 Tundra. When the Truck Series resumed action, he posted a season-best fourth-place finish at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, bettered it a week later with a third-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and picked up his third consecutive top-10 finish with an eighth-place result in the series last stop at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (CMS).
Although the Truck Series hasn't raced since May 21 at CMS, Bell has kept his skills sharp with plenty of seat time. He finished 10th in the first road-course start of his career in the ARCA Racing Series event at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville on May 28 and then toured several dirt tracks over the last week. The racing gypsy picked up a win May 29 in the NRA Sprint Invaders event at Eldora Speedway and then won June 3 in the USAC National Midget race at Bloomington (Ind.) during Indiana Midget Week.
With a total of 49 feature wins across a variety of racing disciplines since the start of the 2014 calendar year, Bell is no stranger to victory lane. Racing two hours from where he grew up Friday night, the Oklahoma native will be looking to pick up his first Truck Series win of 2016 and end the night in familiar surroundings celebrating with several friends and family that will be in attendance.