As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway for the final race of the Round of 6, every driver but one has prior experience at the one-mile track. Christopher Bell will be making his Phoenix debut, but the talented youngster knows that with Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) history of success at the Arizona track and the No. 4 team's success on short tracks this year that if he does his job behind the wheel he'll have the opportunity to race for a championship next week at Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway.
KBM pulled off a Truck Series four-peat at Phoenix from 2011 to 2014. Owner-driver Kyle Busch got the winning streak started in 2011 when he led 107 of 150 laps on the one-mile track before it was repaved and reconfigured later that season. In 2012, Brian Scott lead a race-high 48 laps and outdueled up-and-coming talent Kyle Larson in the closing laps to pick up the victory in the Truck Series' first event at the revamped venue.
The following year, Erik Jones put his name on the racing map when at the time he became the youngest driver to win a NASCAR National Series event after leading a race-high 84 laps en route to the historic victory. What did Jones do for an encore? In 2014, he made it back-to-back victories leading 114 of 126 laps before an electrical failure shortened the race. The Michigan native nearly made it three in a row last season when he led 106 of the first 120 laps before Matt Crafton got loose underneath him battling for the lead off Turn 4 on a late restart and sent Jones caroming into the frontstretch wall.
Bell, an open-wheel dirt standout, has quickly adapted to the short tracks in the Truck Series since making his debut at Iowa Speedway last June. In 10 career starts on tracks 1.25-miles or shorter in distance, including two dirt races at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, he has posted two wins, seven top-five, nine top-10 finishes and an average finish of 5.3. He earned his spot in the inaugural Truck Series Chase this year with his victory at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., a flat, 1.25-mile track, and his best two finishes thus far in the playoffs have come at short tracks; a runner-up finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon to kickoff the playoffs and a fourth-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in the first race of the Round of 6.
The 21-year-old enters the biggest race of his young career with no prior experience at Phoenix, so he has turned to last year's driver of the No. 4 Tundra, Jones, for tutelage. Bell has picked Jones' brain this week on how to get around the unique one-mile track and hopes that by listening to the two-time Phoenix Truck Series winner and taking notes from watching tapes of past races he can have a strong run on Friday night and earn one of the three spots remaining in the Championship 4.
If Bell is able to advance to the Championship 4 with a strong run Friday night at Phoenix, he'll once again do his best to follow in Jones' shadow next week at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway as he aims to become the second straight driver of KBM's No. 4 Tundra to be crowned Truck Series champion.