Christopher Bell worked his way from his 13th starting position in Saturday’s LTi Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn to run inside the top five in the final two stages and contend for a win in the closing laps.
After riding in the second position behind Austin Cindric for several laps, the Oklahoma native decided it was time to make his move with 11 laps to go. He dove to the inside and momentarily took the lead, but as Bell and Cindric were trading paint down the backstretch, Darrell Wallace Jr. dove to the inside of both of them into Turn 3 and ended up clearing them both for the lead.
Wallace Jr., a former Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) driver, would hold on for the final 10 laps to pick up his first Truck Series win since picking a victory for KBM in the 2014 Truck Series finale at Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway.
With his runner-up finish and Johnny Sauter finishing 18th, Bell was able to extend his lead in the regular season standings to 37 points over the reigning champion with three races remaining before the start of the Truck Series playoffs.
Date: Aug. 12, 2017
Event: LTi Printing 200 (Race 13 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (two-mile oval)
Format: Three Stages; 30 laps / 30 laps / 40 laps
Start/Finish: 13th / 2nd (running, completed 100 of 100 laps)
Winner: Christopher Bell of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
Stage One Recap:
- Bell started from the 13th position and with passing at a premium in the early stages was only able to work his way to a 10th-place finish at the end of Stage One.
Stage Two Recap:
- After communicating that his JBL/SiriusXM Tundra needed to be “a little bit tighter,” Bell was summoned to pit road by crew chief Rudy Fugle. The over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a chassis adjustment and returned their driver to the track scored in the 10th position for the start of Stage Two.
- The field went green on lap 36 and the talented wheelman wasted no time making a charge toward the front of the field. One lap into the Stage he had catapulted to the sixth position and on lap 38 he settled into the fifth spot.
- Bell was running in the fourth spot when a caution slowed the field on lap 52 and allowed Fugle to make a strategy move to set his driver up with track position for the final stage. The JBL/SiriusXM Tundra hit pit road for the final set of sticker tires, which would allow the team to make a speedy fuel-only stop at the end of Stage Two.
- Other competitors made the same call and Bell restarted from the 10th spot on the lap-55 restart. He shot like a cannon up the outside line and as the field crossed the stripe on lap 56 was in the third position, where he would remain when the field took the green checkered to complete Stage Two.
Final Stage Recap:
- After topping off with fuel, Bell returned to the track scored in the third position, behind a pair of trucks that did not pit. He made his way up to the runner-up position on a restart with 18 laps remaining and tucked in behind Austin Cindric waiting for an opportunity to make a pass for the lead.
- With 11 laps remaining Bell decided it was time to go and dove to the inside of Cindric off of Turn 2. The two drivers traded paint down the backstretch and while they were focused on each other, Wallace Jr made a move from the third position around both of them and took the lead.
- Bell fell to the third position, but with the help of KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch made his way back around Cindric for the second spot but wasn’t to work his way around Wallace Jr, despite making a valiant effort to dive to the inside of him off the exit of Turn 2 on the final lap.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, driver of the No. 4 JBL/SiriusXM Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
How was the finish to the race?
“I don’t know, I hope the fans enjoyed that one because it was a ton of fun. Our SiriusXM/JBL Tundra was handling really good, we just didn’t seem to have the raw speed to get up there and get by them. That was a lot of fun. I wish I would have been able to work that inside pass like I did the time before. I didn’t quite get there. That’s awesome for Bubba (Darrell Wallace Jr.), to see him come back and win like that – that was a really fun race.”
How difficult was it to pass in the race?
“It was really tough because the draft was huge. It didn’t seem like me or Kyle (Busch) could really do anything without someone pushing behind us. I don’t know, when I took the lead there off of two I felt like I was in pretty good shape. Instead of Bubba (Darrell Wallace Jr.) helping me he took the lead himself. It’s really cool to see him come away and win like that, it was a really fun race just bummed and frustrated that we didn’t get it done.”
What makes it so hard to pass on the low side of the track?
“There’s more banking up the grooves so if you go to the bottom and no one goes with you then you just get trapped down there because the line is so fast when you have all the trucks lined up like that.”
LTi Printing 200 Recap:
- Darrell Wallace Jr. collected his first Truck Series win in his first start since he won the 2014 series finale for KBM at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway. It was Wallace’s sixth career victory in NASCAR’s third division. Bell finished 0.176 seconds behind Wallace in the runner-up position. Kyle Busch finished third, while Ryan Truex and Austin Cindric rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 23 laps. There were seven lead changes among seven drivers. Bell did not lead a lap, but still leads the Truck Series with 521 laps led on the season.
How Bell’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished third
- Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished seventh
NCWTS Driver Championship Standings:
Bell leaves the 13th race of the season leading the Truck Series championship standings by 37 points over reigning champion Jonny Sauter. The Oklahoma native has earned 24 playoff points this season.
Bell will be behind the wheel of the No. 4 Toyota Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the UNOH 200 begins with the NCWTS Setup Show at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.