NASCAR Truck: Christopher Bell wins at Atlanta
Christopher Bell celebrates winning the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 4, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Christopher Bell claimed his third-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win Saturday when he took the checkered flag in the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was the first Atlanta win for Kyle Busch Motorsports, even though team owner Kyle Busch has four series wins at AMS as a driver. All Busch’s wins at the track came with Billy Ballew Motorsports.
“Man, it’s been a dream come true to be able to be at Kyle Busch Motorsports and in this No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra. All the guys at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Rowdy Manufacturing and everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports and all the guys at the shop work really hard on this thing, so I’m just really thankful to be able to be the one that drives this thing, because it’s a dream machine.”
Matt Crafton finished second, Johnny Sauter was third, Ben Rhodes fourth and Chase Elliott finished fifth.
Bell started on the pole and led a race-high 99 laps of the 130 that made up the race, including the first 83. By leading the first 83 laps, Bell won the first two stages of the race that ended on lap 40 and lap 80.
Busch got off pit road first during the fifth caution of the race that signaled the completion of the second stage. Bell restarted second to his boss, and having to start in the outside line, just as other drivers in the same position before him, Bell lost several positions when the race returned to green.
“I knew we were really, really good and air is so important, here, so whenever we took off by ourselves, I kept keying up and just saying, ‘Man, I’m really good. I don’t need anything,’ and then, as soon as I fell back, there, it kind of brought out some flaws on my truck, but I knew I was really good, and if I could get back out front, I’d be just fine.”
A couple of cautions later on lap 104, Grant Enfinger remained on the race track to inherit the lead. Busch, meanwhile, lost several positions in the pits and restarted outside the top-five. Busch lost additional spots when the race restarted and hit the retaining wall. As a result of the incident, he returned to pit road.
Crafton took the lead on the restart, but lost that lead to Bell on lap 114. The yellow flag waved one more time on lap 125, and Bell and Crafton restarted the race for the final time, side-by-side on the front row. Unlike drivers previously restarting in the outside line, Crafton was able to maintain his position to battle Bell over the course of the final laps.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to make sure I got a good restart and I didn’t get my momentum broke,” Bell said. “These truck races are really tough to get restarts going, because it’s so, so aero dependent and you can get all sorts of momentum or you can get all sorts of momentum taken away from you, and I think that happened to me, there, in the middle section of the race, but Rudy (Rugle, crew chief) and the guys just — they did an awesome job preparing this thing. It was really fast all weekend. Man, it was just a dream machine. It was really, really good.”
Finishing sixth through 10th were Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Grant Enfinger, Timothy Peters and Ross Chastain.