Open-wheel dirt standout Christopher Bell found success early in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career, winning at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio in just his third series start. While a win is a win in the record books, the talented youngster felt that because of his dirt-racing background everyone expected him to win that race and felt that he still needed to validate his driving skills by earning a win in the Truck Series on pavement.
The 21-year-old driver proved to the racing world that he is also capable of winning on pavement in the Truck Series' last stop at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., on June 25. While a fisticuffs between two competitors late in the race made the headlines, it was Bell who delivered the knockout punch and went home with the trophy. After getting run up the hill on a restart while leading earlier in the race, the Oklahoma native made the gutsy call to restart from the inside lane for the race's final restart on lap 158. He was able to clear fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ben Rhodes through Turns 1 and 2 and remained out front for the final two laps to secure Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) its record-tying 50th Truck Series win.
Bell will now Buckle Up in his Tundra and head to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, one of seven tracks he made a start at last season, for Thursday night's 150-lap event on the freshly paved surface. Coming off a fifth-place finish in his series debut at Iowa Speedway, the rookie was looking to prepare for his first race on a mile-and-a-half track with two practice sessions and qualifying, but Mother Nature had a different plan.
With practice and qualifying washed out for last year's event in the Bluegrass State, Bell lined up from the 16th position based on owner's points. You would've never known he had never made a lap on a 1.5-mile track, as he moved up to the eighth spot by the time the competition caution flew on lap 25. He ran inside the top 10 for most of the event, but got loose on a restart with just under 20 laps remaining and ended up making contact with the wall. After repairs to fix the damage, the race was ended prematurely due to damage to the catchfence from another accident and the youngster was left with a 17th-place finish.
Coming into this year's event at Kentucky, the colt now has eight starts under his belt on mile-and-a-half tracks and has been fast at each of the 1.5-mile tracks this season. His career-best finish on an intermediate track came earlier this season when he finished fourth at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, but it was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton earlier this season where he had his best run. He led 42 laps that day, but blew a tire while leading with seven laps to go and was relegated to a 26th-place finish.
As one of five full-time Truck Series drivers to earn a victory this season, Bell has one foot in the door to earning one of the eight spots available for the first-ever Chase for the championship. With seven races remaining, it is possible that NASCAR's third division could end up with more than eight winners and the final spots would be determined by a tiebreaker, so the No. 4 JBL racing team is ready to deliver a second victory and validate their ticket into the Chase.