Christopher Bell will be one of two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) playoff contenders that can sleep easy this week as the Round of 8 comes to a close and two drivers will be eliminated at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Bell, who has been atop the NCWTS championship standings for the last seven races, punched his ticket to the Round of 6 two races agoin the opening race of the playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and fellow Toyota competitor Ben Rhodes joined Bell in the "Sleep Easy Club" in the series' last stop at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway.
Bell boasts an average finish of 9.5 across his two prior starts at Talladega, but both have been very eventful. Two years ago at Talladega, he made his superspeedway debut tackling the 2.66-mile tri-oval in just the fifth start of his Truck Series career. Following the advice of clinging to the yellow line along the inside lane of the track he managed to register an average running position of 9.7 and with four laps remaining found himself in the fourth position. A strong restart allowed the youngster to push Brandon Jones to the lead, but NASCAR ruled that he "engaged" the bumper of Jones' truck and issued a pass-through penalty. Just before he was going to serve his penalty a multi-truck wreck brought out the caution, which forced him to restart in the 15th position at the tail end of the field for the green-white-checkered finish. Before the race ended under caution, the rookie driver was able to pick up two positions and left his superspeedway debut with a respectable 13th-place finish.
Last year at Talladega, while racing to advance to the next round of the inaugural Truck Series Chase, Bell experienced a broken shifter in the middle stages of the race and had to surrender his position inside the top 10 to hit pit road. Across the next three caution periods, his over-the-wall crew successfully unfastened his shifter lever and mounted a new one in his Tundra. After that problem was fixed, the Oklahoma native suffered minor cosmetic damage in a 15-truck accident with just over 30 laps remaining. The crew once again went to work fixing his Tundra and returned him to the track in the 16th position with 25 laps remaining. Bell had advanced to the seventh position for the final restart of the race and ended up moving up to sixth over the final two laps.
After two years of stress-filled races at Talladega, Bell already has his ticket punched to the Round of 6 and enters Saturday's 94-lap event with a peaceful easy feelin'. When it's all said and done, he hopes to be standing on the ground in victory lane.