Bell holds off Crafton, captures third career Truck Series win
By Kyle Magda
March 4, 2017
HAMPTON, Ga.—Christopher Bell rode off in the Atlanta sunset with a dominating performance in Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200.
Bell won all three stages of the event and cleared Matt Crafton with two laps to go to cap off a perfect Saturday in the Camping World Truck Series.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to make sure I got a good restart and not break my momentum,” Bell said. “These truck races are really tough to get restarts going, because it’s so areo dependent. You can get all sorts of momentum or you can have all that momentum taken away from you.
“That happened to me there in the middle section of the race. Rudy and the guys did an awesome job preparing this thing, it was really fast all weekend, it’s just a dream machine. It was really, really good.”
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver lost the lead to team owner Kyle Busch at the start of the third stage, falling back to sixth before charging back towards the front.
It was a battle between the veteran Crafton and the sophomore driver Bell in the closing stages before Bell got in front of the No. 88 Menards Toyota coming to the white flag to pull away and score the win.
“I could hear him down there spinning the tires,’just keep spinning them Chris’, but we had a shot and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about,” Crafton said. “To have a shot at them on that last restart and it was close. We just lacked on short run speed. The No.4 truck definitely had us on that.”
Crafton won the event in 2015 in similar fashion by winning more than nine seconds over another Atlanta Truck winner in Ty Dillon. His ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes made a bid for the lead but ran in Busch’s tire-tracks and didn’t get any closer to the top spot.
Defending series champ Johnny Sauter came home third with Ben Rhodes in fourth and Cup driver Chase Elliott. Elliott’s No. 23 truck was found to be too-low in post-race inspection after doing double-duty Saturday while making his debut in the FOX Sports booth during the XFINITY race.
Bell led 99 of the race’s 130 laps en route to the victory, his third career win in the Truck Series. The 23-year-old driver also won January’s Chili Bowl and has now scored a victory in each of the last three seasons in Trucks.
Defending race winner John Hunter Nemechek had a strong truck in the event until he blew a right-front tire right before the second stage ended.
“We just blew a right-front [tire] there. I hate it for all my guys, all of our sponsor and those who help us out get to the racetrack. We’re having a great run.
“I was trying not to run the right-front too hard as everyone was somewhat having troubles with it and I guess I ran in just a little bit too hard or something we over-adjusted maybe on the last stop but I can’t thank all my guys enough. The truck was really fast.
“We’ll go back, go build them better and faster and hopefully go get a grandfather clock.”
The Camping World Truck Series heads next to Martinsville Speedway in four weeks and until then have a break before hitting the Paper Clip for 250 laps.
Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts