Christopher Bell The Veteran
The next stop on the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Christopher Bell and the No. 4 JBL Racing team will be Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Friday's Bar Harbor 200. Bell's main focus will be continuing his strong start and pursuit of the Truck Series championship, but as the veteran driver in Kyle Busch Motorsports' stable he will also have three young teammates leaning upon his experience this weekend.
For the first time in 2017, Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) will be fielding a fourth entry and Bell's three teammates boast an average age of 17 and a total of nine Truck Series starts. Seventeen-year old Todd Gilliland will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the No. 46 Tundra, 16-year-old Harrison Burton will be making his third career Truck Series start in the No. 51 Tundra and 18-year-old Noah Gragson will be making his eighth career Truck Series start.
Friday's 200-lap race will be Bell's 36th Truck Series start since making his debut at Iowa Speedway in Newton in June of 2015 as part of a seven-race schedule that season. The open-wheel dirt standout has delivered three wins, three poles, 15 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes resulting in average finish of 9.1 across his first 35 starts in NASCAR's third division.
Bell can testify to his young teammates that success in the Truck Series doesn't always come overnight. Across his first 10 starts, the Oklahoma native produced an average finish of 14.40 and including his win on the dirt at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio finished inside the top 10 just three times. After a tough start to his first full-time campaign last season, something clicked and the talented youngster has become one of the most consistent drivers in the Truck Series. Over his last 20 starts, dating back to last year's race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the 22-year-old has posted an average finish of 7.04 and recorded 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. For comparison, KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch's average finish of 7.05 is tops all-time in the Truck Series for drivers with a minimum of 100 career starts.
Despite trailing reigning Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter by 15 points in this year's championship standings, one could argue that Bell has been the most impressive wheelman in NASCAR's third division in 2017. Over the first five races on the schedule, he has collected the pole three times and leads all Truck Series regulars in several key statistical categories including, average start (2.6), average finish (3.8), driver rating (120.8), laps led (240) and fastest laps run (117). The Toyota Development driver carried over his hot start to the NASCAR XFINITY Series last weekend at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway where he delivered a fourth-place finish in his series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing.
With Kyle Busch on the sidelines as a driver in the Truck Series Friday, Bell will be taking over the veteran driver role for KBM. The talented wheelman is also hoping to take over the role of getting a KBM Tundra to victory lane, which Busch has handled at each of the last two stops on the Truck Series schedule.
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