Bell Dominates CARS SLM Field at Orange Countyby Jason Beck April 19, 2015 0 comments
Photo Credit: Jason Beck
According to the old racing joke, you’re either first or last. Christopher Bell drove from last to first Saturday to win the CARS Super Late Model Series Orange Blossom 300 at Orange County Speedway.
Penalized for missing driver introductions during the pre-race ceremony, the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was stripped of his third-place qualifying position and forced to start 30th. Bell made short work of the field and took the lead on lap 41, dominating the 150-lap event.
The race was the Oklahoma driver’s second victory at Orange County. A development driver with experience in sprint cars, Bell captured his first career late model win at the Rougemont, N.C., track last fall. This time, he said his racecar was the best he’d ever driven.
“It just drove itself,” said Bell, soaked with sweat and Champagne after the race. “These guys are just so good at giving me racecars that just roll around here. I’m pretty happy with it and we’ll go on to the next one.”
Most of the field has work to do before the next race. In addition to being thoroughly outmatched by Bell’s Toyota, few cars escaped the race without damage. Nine caution flags marred the race, the worst accident a 10-car pileup on the second lap trigged by outside pole setter Quinn Huff.
For Bell, blistering the field wasn’t about proving a point following his penalty; it was a matter of survival.
“My goal was to get out front as quickly as I could, that way I could ride up there with those guys,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to pass when you have new tires.”
Bell’s quick charge to the lead and blazing race pace frustrated second-place finisher Bubba Pollard. The late model veteran from Alabama expressed his discontent after the race.
”I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to run with the 51,” he said. “With the technology they’ve got, the equipment they’ve got, it’s going to be tough … I don’t see how he can run that fast, that long.”
Pollard credits Kyle Busch Motorsports’ NASCAR-level equipment and crew with an advantage before showing up at the track. Still, Pollard put on a show for fans, battling side-by-side with teammate and third-place finisher Kyle Grissom, edging him by a bumper on the final lap. Grissom enjoyed the battle and was pleased with his second consecutive podium finish on the CARS Tour.
“It’s a lot of fun when you can race like that; we were side by side forever there,” he said. “There was a lot of wrecking tonight, and you really hate to see that.”
In addition to the initial multi-car crash that destroyed the car of Matt Craig, other incidents caused front-runners Harrison Burton, Clay Jones,Clay Rogers and Lucas Jones to fall from the event. Canada’s Dominique Van Wieringen led the race early, but an engine failure and fire led to a race stoppage and lengthy cleanup.
Cole Timm, who won the last CARS Tour race at Southern National Motorsports Park, was again fast qualifier, but faded early. A mid-race pit stop for adjustments allowed Timm to rebound for a fourth-place finish. Chris Davidson, Brandon Setzer, Trevor Noles, Brandon Lynn, Zane Smith and Chris Fontaine rounded out the top-10.