Bell wins series-high third victory of 2017

By Jonathan Fjeld
July 7, 2017

Christopher Bell earned his third win of the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season in Thursday’s rain-delayed Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky.

Bell overcame a spin during the race near the end of the first stage while racing with Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric for position. Bell led a race-high 54 laps and picked up five stage points in stage two and five playoff points for the win.  

“We had such a good Toyota Tundra that I knew if the right circumstances came up we could do it,” Bell said. “And Rudy [Fugle] did a great job on the pit box just getting me track position after I made a mistake and spun out.”

The 225-mile race was delayed three hours and finally started at 10:39 p.m. Eastern Time. Qualifying had been cancelled due to rain which meant the drivers lined up based on owner points standings and points leader Johnny Sauter started on the pole.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch, one of the race favorites, started the race in 26th. Another race favorite, Chase Briscoe, started in the back of the field but not due to weather. Briscoe wrecked in practice and was forced to go to a backup truck.

Sauter led the field for much of the first 35-lap stage but not without a challenge from Grant Enfinger and Christopher Bell, who had a contentious battle for second behind Sauter.

The first caution flew on lap 20 when the 44 truck of Matt Mills spun and hit the wall as Enfinger and Bell were going by, which knocked Mills out of the race.

At the time of the caution, Kyle Busch and Chase Briscoe, two of the race’s favorites, had worked their way from the back of the pack. Busch started 26th and was 12th at the caution, and Briscoe was 17th after starting 33rd.  

Sauter lost the lead on the first restart and fell back to fifth at the time of the second caution when Christopher Bell spun in turn three while racing hard for position with Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric. Sauter would pit under the caution and finished outside of the top 10 for the first time in a stage this season.

Ben Rhodes was the new leader on the restart and would go on to win stage one, but not without a challenge from Ryan Truex. Truex tried to make a move going down the backstretch and into turn three but Rhodes’s truck was good enough to hold off Truex for a stage win.

Stage one top 10: Ben Rhodes (10 points; 1 playoff point), Ryan Truex (9 pts.), Matt Crafton (8 pts.), Grant Enfinger (7 pts.), John Hunter Nemechek (6 pts.), Justin Haley (5 pts.), Kaz Grala (4 pts.), Ross Chastain (ineligible for Truck points), Noah Gragson (2 pts.) and Austin Hill (1 pt.).

After the stage caution was complete, Justin Haley restarted in the lead after staying out with others including Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe, Myatt Snider and Kyle Busch. Gragson soon took the lead from Haley after the restart.

Once again, however, it did not take long for drivers farther back in the field to start racing hard which brought out the fourth caution.

At around tenth place, T.J. Bell and Christopher Bell were side-by-side very closely with Ben Rhodes below Christopher Bell. Rhodes ran out of room and grip as they entered turn three and spun into T.J. Bell who then got into Rhodes’s teammate, Matt Crafton.

Fellow ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger was also knocked out in the wreck when Rhodes spun up the track and into Enfinger, who had nowhere to go but into the back of him.

Noah Gragson restarted in the lead with teammate Kyle Busch behind him. Busch pushed Gragson out to a comfortable lead as they completed lap 52.

Brandon Jones, who restarted in seventh, was hit with a restart penalty. Jones was forced to make a pass through pit road which put him a lap down. However, Jones would later get the free pass during the stage caution.

Busch managed to keep Gragson in his sights as the run progressed.

The two were even for much of the run as Gragson ran well in Turns 3 and 4 but Busch was better in Turns 1 and 2. Busch, however, was unable to get by Gragson and Gragson was able to win his first stage of the season.

Stage two Top 10: Noah Gragson (10 points, 1 playoff point; 12 total stage pts.), Kyle Busch (ineligible for Truck points), Justin Haley (8 pts.; 13 total stage pts.), Chase Briscoe (7 pts.), Myatt Snider (6 pts.), Christopher Bell (5 pts.), Austin Cindric (4 pts.), Johnny Sauter (3 pts.), Kaz Grala (2 pts.; 6 total stage pts.) and John Hunter Nemechek (1 pt.; 6 total stage pts.).  

Due to many drivers taking just two tires, Gragson, Briscoe, and Busch would restart farther back in seventh, eighth, and 10th, respectively. This meant another pair of KBM drivers, Myatt Snider and Christopher Bell, would restart in first and second.

Bell took the lead on the restart but Snider hung on to second with a swarm of trucks behind him. The swarm would produce another restart incident when Gragson tried to pass the Cindric on the inside but hit a drainage bump on the frontstretch.

This resulted in Gragson getting into Cindric and spinning back up the track. However, no one made contact with Gragson and he was able to make a great save to continue running with no damage.

Bell had another strong restart with 68 to go. Nemechek hung with him but would not take the lead until several laps later when Bell was caught up in heavy lap traffic. Bell would fall to second and into the fingertips of Busch and Cindric who both caught up as well when Bell ran into traffic.

Myatt Snider spun in Turn 4 to bring out the seventh caution on lap 107. This caution brought all of the frontrunners on to pit road. Busch’s crew had trouble with the right front tire being hung up on the fender well and lost several spots.

Chase Briscoe, another frontrunner, also lost many spots when he and his crew were hit with an end-of-the-longest-line penalty for having men over the wall too soon.

Off of pit road, Nemechek retained the lead in search for his third consecutive win of the season. However, Christopher Bell would have much to say as he took the lead again on the restart, just before the 8th and final caution of the night.

Kaz Grala spun entering Turn 3 in a wreck similar to Ben Rhodes’s earlier in the race and collected Ryan Truex when he was spinning back up the track. The wreck would take a hit on Truex’s playoff outlook, taking him from being in a playoff spot at that time in the race to being one point out of the final spot held by Grant Enfinger.

Bell had another great restart with 32 laps to go and maintained the lead. Remarkably, Brandon Jones would take second on the restart in an effort to battle back from a restart penalty. Jones challenged Bell as the laps wound down but Nemechek, Haley, and Kyle Busch were close behind the two leaders. Nemechek, however, would run into trouble with 16 to go. Nemechek got loose off of turn four and hit the wall, which caused him to have to come to pit road. Nemechek would finish 18th, two laps down.

Bell and Jones settled it amongst themselves after pulling away from Haley and Busch at the end. Jones tried multiple times to get by Bell but settled for second in the end.

“I had to shot to win it but there was so many things I was trying to do, trying to keep air off the fender…but he had a hot rod as well tonight so it was an evenly matched deal,” Jones told FOX Sports, “I just needed to be out in front I think to be able to do it [and] I think we would’ve pulled away like they did.”

The rest of the top ten was Justin Haley, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Kyle Busch, Parker Kligerman, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, and Austin Hill.

Sauter retained his points lead but Bell gained 14 pts on him. The Truck Series races next on Wednesday, July 19th at Eldora Speedway for the lone dirt race on the schedule.
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