Christopher Bell Takes Victory in Classic Salem Duel

Christopher Bell Takes Victory in Classic Salem Duel

by April 25, 2016 0 comments

SALEM, Ind. — It just wouldn’t quite be a race at Salem Speedway if there weren’t some sort of fireworks involved with its finish.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell took the victory at Salem on Sunday afternoon in the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200, besting Justin Haley in a 47-lap sprint to the checkered flag for his maiden ARCA Racing Series win in what was also his series debut.

While not a nail-biter of a finish similar to the conclusion of 2014’s Fall Classic, Bell and Haley’s battle through the final quarter of the race was quite the physical one. Both drivers wheeled their respective cars through a battle that involved plenty of on-track contact and sideways race cars.

In the end, it was Bell who broke away from Haley’s No. 74 Chevrolet and onwards to the checkered flag in his No. 66 JBL Audio Toyota.

The 21-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma battled through his share of adversity through the race. Not only did he have to fend off a hard-charging No. 74 car, but he started experiencing engine issues later on in the race.

“It was pretty smooth sailing there from the beginning,” Bell said of his first ARCA start. “I knew just to roll around there and save tires because this place is so tough on tires. It really worked out on the long green flag run there at the beginning of the race.

“Then we came in for the pit stop and we kind of had a bobble on the pit stop, but it didn’t hurt us too bad because we ended up getting out of there fourth – which put us on the top.

“And then on the yellow there I noticed we dropped a cylinder or something and the motor started laying down. It didn’t really hurt us too bad on old tires, but once we came in and took four it really kind of hurt us pretty bad.”

For Venturini Motorsports, Bell’s win not only made for their first of the season, but their first in 11 months. In his post-race interview, Bell gave full credit of the race win to the Venturini organization for fielding him a quick race car.

“I just can’t say thank you enough to JBL, Toyota, Venturini Motorsports and my whole team,” Bell stated. “You’re only as good as the cars you sit in, so I’m lucky to sit in a fast one.”

Haley scored his career-best finish in the ARCA Racing Series with his runner-up result.

The full-time driver for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East had a phenomenal car on the restarts of the race, yet slipped up on in some speedy dry on the final restart, allowing Bell to get the jump.

“We had a good finish in the Braun Motorsports No. 74,” Haley said. “We fought hard all day. We didn’t quite qualify where we needed to, but that’s alright. My crew chief, Shannon, made us the right adjustments to get up there…

“A little bit of speedy dry up there in 3 and 4 and we got a little loose [on final restart.] Nothing we could do about it. But, all in all we had a really good run today.”

Bell’s Venturini Motorsports teammate, Dalton Sargeant, took the last step on the podium on the results sheet with Kyle Weatherman, Blake Jones, Tom Hessert, John Wes Townley, Brandon Lynn, Matt Kurzejewski and Brian Keselowski completing the top-10 of the finishing order.

Other notable finishers were Nashville winner Josh Williams in 13th, Chase Briscoe – the hometown favorite and dominant driver of the early stages of the race in 17th and Mason Mitchell Motorsports’s Brady Boswell in 18th.

With track space being at a premium on Sunday with 30 cars taking the green flag, Sunday’s 200-lap race was a surprisingly tame affair with only four caution periods and only one of those being for a multi-car incident.

Bo LeMastus brought out the first caution of the day on Lap 72 for a solo spin off of Turn 2 while a debris caution was the culprit for the race’s second caution shortly after the previous caution’s restart on Lap 85.

LeMastus went around for another spin on Lap 130 off of Turn 4 while accidental contact between Kurzejewski and Lira Motorsports’s Sheldon Creed helped lead Creed’s No. 38 Ford into the Turn 4 wall and subsequently up in smoke on Lap 139.

Unofficially, Townley will retain the points lead heading into Friday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway over Briscoe and Lynn.

Briscoe heads into Talladega 95 points behind Townley while Lynn remains 120 markers behind the driver of the No. 05 Athenian Motorsports Chevrolet.

Finishing Order of the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200

  1. 66 – Christopher Bell
  2. 74 – Justin Haley
  3. 55 – Dalton Sargeant
  4. 58 – Kyle Weatherman
  5. 22 – Blake Jones
  6. 25 – Tom Hessert
  7. 05 – John Wes Townley
  8. 36 – Brandon Lynn (-1)
  9. 52 – Matt Kurzejewski (-1)
  10. 5 – Brian Keselowski (-1)
  11. 59 – Tyler McQuarrie (-1)
  12. 32 – Shane Lee (-2)
  13. 6 – Josh Williams (-2)
  14. 27 – A.J. Fike (-2)
  15. 42 – Bo LeMastus (-3)
  16. 77 – Chase Briscoe (-4)
  17. 9 – Thomas Praytor (-8)
  18. 98 – Brady Boswell (-24)
  19. 34 – Mike Basham (-32)
  20. 38 – Sheldon Creed (-61)
  21. 14 – Dustin Knowles (-112)
  22. 48 – Brad Smith (-144)
  23. 1 – Kyle Plott (-150)
  24. 06 – Con Nicolopoulos (-172)
  25. 0 – Wayne Peterson (-175)
  26. 10 – Richard Doheny (-176)
  27. 31 – Richard Hauck (-178)
  28. 2 – Steve Fox (-189)
  29. 69 – Barry Layne (-199)
  30. 23 – Chase Storch (-199)
  31. 70 – Billy Alger (-200, DNS)
  32. 64 – Ronnie Osmer (-200, DNS)

Photo Credit: Kyle Pokrefky/The Fourth Turn

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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