Just one day shy of the anniversary of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Iowa Speedway in Newton last season, Christopher Bell returns to tackle the .875-mile tri-oval in Saturday's Speediatrics 200.
Last year the rosy cheeked 20-year-old turned heads with a solid performance in his National Series debut at Iowa. Bell familiarized himself with the feel of his Tundra turning 66 laps in the lone practice session, where he ended up second on the leaderboard behind his Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) teammate and eventual race winner Erik Jones. He was once again second to Jones in the first of three rounds of knockout qualifying, but slipped to sixth in the second round and ended up qualifying 10th.
Come race time, the open-wheel dirt standout ran inside the top 10 for all but a 20-lap stretch from lap 50-70 after the team's first-scheduled pit stop of the day. Bell restarted from the eighth position with 36 laps remaining in the event and quickly maneuvered his way up to the fourth spot. He battled side-by-side for several laps trying to hold off two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton in the closing laps, but eventually surrendered the position and ended the day with an impressive fifth-place finish.
At the time Iowa was the only race on Bell's Truck Series schedule, but a strong showing in his debut earned the Oklahoma native six more starts last season. The talented wheelman rewarded the powers to be by bringing home a victory in just his third career start last July at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Overall in seven starts he posted one win, two top-five and three top-10 finishes en route to an average finish of 11.9.
Bell's performance in a part-time schedule last season earned him a full-time gig behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra in 2016. The talented wheelman has shown the speed necessary to compete for wins and be a championship contender, but has also experienced a handful of misfortunes so far this season. He enters this weekend with two top-five and three top-10 finishes across the first seven races, but has failed to finish twice, including a 32nd-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
With nine races remaining before the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, Bell is looking to celebrate the anniversary of his debut by earning a trip to victory lane at Iowa on Saturday and harvesting one of the eight spots in the elimination-based playoff format.