MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 14, 2017) – Christopher Bell and the No. 4 Toyota Tundra Racing team head to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway leading reigning champion Johnny Sauter in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season standings with three races remaining before the playoffs start. Bell will be in search of his series-leading fifth win of the season on Wednesday night, a win that would go a long way in his effort to earn the much-coveted 15 playoff points that are awarded to the regular season champ.
Over the last four races, two wins and a runner-up finish have helped Bell make a 79-point swing in the regular season standings on Sauter. He entered the series’ 10th race of the season at Kentucky Speedway with a 42-point deficit and now enters the 13th race of the season this week with a 37-point lead. After spending nine weeks in the runner-up position in the championship standings, Bell moved ahead of Sauter with his victory at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., two races ago. The Oklahoma native nearly made it two wins in a row last week at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, but had to settle for a runner-up finish behind former Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) driver Darrell Wallace Jr.
The talented wheelman showed he has the speed necessary to conquer “The Last Great Colosseum” in last year’s event, but wasn’t able to pull off the victory. After starting from the fifth position, he made his way to the front of the field just before a competition caution at lap 41. Bell would remain out front for 100 of the next 101 laps, stretching his lead to over four seconds at one point. With 58 laps remaining in the event he was in a side-by-side battle with KBM teammate Daniel Suarez shortly after a restart and ended up spinning. After pitting for four fresh tires, he restarted from the 12th position with 52 laps remaining and would end the night with a seventh-place finish.
The 22-year-old driver enters this year’s event at Bristol as a more polished talent. In addition to leading the Truck Series point standings, he also leads NASCAR’s third division in a majority of the statistical categories, including wins (four), poles (three), driver rating (118.2), playoff points (24), average starting position (4.9), average finish (5.3), laps led (521) and fastest laps run (232).
While the application of the PJ1 TrackBite will make the bottom the preferred groove in the first half of Wednesday night’s race, when it comes down to the closing laps and the substance has worn off the winner will likely have to be able to run what Bell and other dirt racers refer to as “the bonus lane” — high up against the wall. With nine dirt wins in addition to his four Truck Series victories this year, the driver No. 4 Toyota Tundra will be in a prime candidate to ride “the bonus lane” to the five bonus points awarded at the end of the night to the winner and will also help him inch a step closer to the 15 bonus points awarded at the end of the regular season.
Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:
Do you enjoy racing at Bristol?
“Bristol is one of my favorite tracks — it’s one of everybody’s favorites because it’s so unique. We don’t go to a place where you pretty much run inside a cup. It’s so banked that you barely turn the wheel left because you almost ride around it instead of turn around it. It’s one of the best race tracks we go to, it’s one of the fastest race tracks that we go to — not mile per hour wise, but lap-time wise and it’s a ton of fun. After watching it on TV and then going there in person, TV just doesn’t do it justice of how banked and how fast it really is. It’s just an immaculate place.”
Ryan “Rudy” Fugle, crew chief of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:
How will the PJ1 TrackBite being applied to the surface affect the racing at Bristol?
“With PJ1 going down, we expect that the racing will be a lot like it was for the Cup Series race earlier this year. The trucks will probably stick to the bottom early, but as the stuff starts to wear out towards the middle of the race you’ll see guys moving up and running higher. Christopher likes to run the high side from his dirt racing, so hopefully that high side comes in. I think it will be a fun race.”
Christopher Bell’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra:
KBM-28: The No. 4 Toyota Tundra team will unload KBM-28 for Wednesday night’s UNOH 200 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. It is the same Tundra that Bell led 54 laps with en route to victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta last month.
The Fugle File:
Ryan “Rudy” Fugle begins his fourth season as a crew chief at KBM and sixth overall with the organization. The New York native has guided his team to an Owner’s championship in all three of his seasons (2013, 2015 & 2016) atop the pit box at KBM, including a combined Owner’s/Driver’s Championship with Erik Jones in 2015. His drivers have combined for 20 wins, 12 poles and 41 top-five finishes across his 81 races calling the shots for the organization. Under his tutelage last season, William Byron collected a Truck Series’ rookie record seven wins while leading the No. 9 Tundra team to KBM’s fourth consecutive and fifth overall Owner’s championship.
Fugle’s NCWTS drivers have posted one win, eight laps led, two top-five and three top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 3.7 across three starts at The Last Great Colosseum. Kyle Busch led seven laps en route to victory in the 2013 event with Fugle calling the shots.