Although Saturday's Drivin' for Linemen 200 will mark Christopher Bell's first start at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., the talented youngster has raced on several dirt tracks within a short drive of the Gateway Arch and considers the Greater St. Louis area one of the special places he has traveled to along his racing journey.
One of the 21-year-old's fondest moments in his budding career happened just 40 miles from Gateway at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., Bell battled side-by-side for several laps with sprint car legend Sammy Swindell in the middle stages of a World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series race and then pulled away late to capture his second career win in the series. His first career win in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series also came just 90 miles from Gateway at Jacksonville (Ill.) Speedway in May of 2014.
Bell has never turned a lap at Gateway, but he did attend last year's race in advance of his Truck Series debut at Iowa Speedway to observe crew chief Jerry Baxter and the rest of the No. 51 team that would be working with him the following week. Baxter who now calls the shots for Bell on the No. 4 team, has a history of success at the Illinois track. The veteran signal caller was atop the pit box for Darrell Wallace Jr., in the 2014 Truck Series event at Gateway in which Wallace Jr. led a race-high 85 laps and ended the day in victory lane. The California native also earned a pair of third-place finishes in NASCAR XFINITY Series action at the 1.25-mile oval; in 2006 with David Reutimann and again in 2010 with Trevor Bayne.
With top-10 finishes in four of the last five races on the Truck Series schedule, Bell's results have been trending in an upward arch. As they say in racing, if you continue to run up front, sooner or later you're going to end up in that special place they call victory lane.