Christopher Bell Finds Redemption In Victory Lane At Atlanta Motor Speedwayby Hunter Thomas March 4, 2017 0 comments
HAMPTON, Ga. – A year ago, a flat right front tire took Christopher Bell out of contention at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but on Saturday afternoon, he dominated to win the Active Pest Control 200.
Bell led 99 of the 130 scheduled laps on Saturday to pick up his first win of the 2017 season. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver entered the weekend coming off an eighth-place finish in Daytona. The driver of the No. 4 JBL Toyota now has two top-10 finishes this season.
“Well, this was definitely a race I had circled ever since we left here last February, but to be able to be see good here last year and then to come back and be as dominant as what we were was really cool for me and it was just kind of a dream weekend ever since we unloaded,” Bell said. “We were really, really fast right off the truck and everything we did to it just made it better and better and better throughout practice. As soon as they dropped the green in the race, it was just really, really good and then kind of got shuffled there on the restart and got stalled out back there in fifth or sixth, but whenever we were able to restart back on the bottom, we were able to get right back up there.”
Although Bell won the first two stages of the race, the third and final stage win didn’t come near as easily. With just four laps to go, the caution came out after Austin Cindric spun sideways through the entrance of Turn 1. On the Overtime restart, Bell successfully held off Matt Crafton, who had a strong truck. The victory marks Bell’s third win of his career.
“It was heartbreaking whenever the yellow came out with five to go or whatever it was, but, man, this thing had been so good, I knew all I had to do was get a good restart and then not screw it up, but I’m just really happy I could finally get JBL to victory lane,” Bell said. “It’s been a year now since we’ve had them on the truck and we haven’t been able to win for them, so I’m glad we got them here in victory lane.”
Crafton, driver of the ThorSport Racing No. 88 Ideal Door/Menard Toyota had to settle for a runner-up finish. The top-five effort comes as a relief for the team after Crafton was sent flying through the air a week ago, at Daytona International Speedway. The effort marks Crafton’s ninth top-10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“We had a shot at them on that last restart and it was close, but this Menards Toyota was good, but it wasn’t great,” Crafton said. “We just lacked on short run speed. The 4 truck definitely had us on that, but if anybody’s listening in Atlanta Motor Speedway and I think we need to start a driver’s council, please, please do not repave this race track. This is by far the coolest race track that we race on just because you can move everywhere. Did you see where we ran? I mean on the yellow line, the middle of the race track, against the fence – it was great racing and that’s what it’s all about when you have good old asphalt like that and put on a great show for everybody hopefully.”
Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 was Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Grant Enfinger, Timothy Peters and Ross Chastain.
During the Active Pest Control 200, there were eight cautions for 38 laps. The race also saw six lead changes among four drivers.
With Saturday’s win, Bell now leads the championship standings by only seven points over Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes, who are tied for second. Daytona winner, Kaz Grala, is fourth, 15 points back from the lead. Matt Crafton is fifth, 21 points back.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will take the rest of March off, but the drivers of the series will be back in action on Saturday, April 1 for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Live coverage of the race will broadcast on FOX and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 3 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images