After winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season title and earning the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, Christopher Bell and the No. 4 team picked up right where they left off to start the playoffs winning all three stages of Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon in the first race of the Round of 8. With the win, which was Bell’s fifth of the 2017 season, the 22-year-old driver earns an automatic berth into the Round of 6 and by earning seven valuable playoff points with his sweep of the stages today will enter that round with at least 47 bonus tallies and two races remaining to earn more bonus points.
Date: Sept. 23, 2017
Event: UNOH 175 (Race 17 of 23, Round of 8 Race 1 of 3)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1.058-mile oval)
Format: Three Stages; 55 laps / 55 laps / 65 laps
Start/Finish: 2nd / 1st (Running, completed 175 of 175 laps)
Winner: Christopher Bell of Kyle Busch Motorsports (Toyota)
Stage One Recap:
- Bell started the 175-lap event from the second position alongside his Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) teammate Noah Gragson, who earned his third pole of the season. After tucking in line behind Gragson on the initial start of the race, the Oklahoma native made his first bid for the lead on lap 25 pulling alongside his teammate and racing side-by-side with him for two laps.
- The No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra was unable to take the lead from Gragson and settled into the runner-up spot in the early stages of the event. On lap 42 Bell was able to maneuver his way into the lead and would remain out the front when the field took the green-white checkered flag on lap 55 for the completion of Stage One.
Stage Two Recap:
- Bell communicated to crew chief Rudy Fugle that he needed his SiriusXM Tundra to turn better before making his first pit stop of the day. The over-the-wall crew executed a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver to the field in the third position, behind two trucks that only took two tires, for the lap-62 restart.
- The Toyota Racing driver quickly made his way into the runner-up position before the field was slowed for the second time of the event on lap 65. After going back green on lap 68, the field was quickly slowed once again for a debris caution on lap 72.
- On the ensuing restart, Bell dove to the inside of leader Matt Crafton into Turn 1 and cleared the veteran off Turn 2 to regain the race lead on lap 76. He would remain out front for the remainder of Stage Two to earn another playoff bonus point.
Final Stage Recap:
- Bell communicated to Fugle that his SiriusXM Tundra still needed to turn better before hitting pit road for the final time of the race. After a four-tire and fuel stop with a minor trackbar adjustment to improve the handling of the No. 4 Toyota, the Oklahoma native returned to the track scored in the sixth position, the first driver with four fresh tires.
- The field went green for the Final Stage on 118 with 57 laps remaining. The driver of the No. 4 began to methodically maneuver his way back towards the front. He advanced into the fourth spot two laps later, and three laps later was in the third spot.
- A one-truck spin slowed the field for the final time on lap 176 with Bell still scored in the third spot. Shortly after the lap-131 restart, the No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra moved up to the second spot and tucked in behind race leader Ryan Truex.
- As the race continued under green-flag conditions, Bell was able to pull to the inside of Truex multiple times but was unable to complete the pass. Finally, with 16 laps remaining the SiriusXM Tundra had a full head of steam into Turn 3 and was able to drive under the No. 16 Tundra and retake the race lead off Turn 4.
- Bell would remain out front for the remainder of the race and finished 1.248 seconds ahead of Truex to earn his fifth Truck Series win of 2017.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, driver of the No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Talk about winning the first race in the Playoffs and sweeping the stage wins.
“It’s a dream come true to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports. These guys do such a good job preparing this SiriusXM Tundra. Just can’t thank all of our partners at JBL, TRD, Toyota, everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports – thank you guys for building such fast trucks. It’s an honor to drive them.”
What enabled you in the end to make that pass on Ryan Truex?
“Well he was doing a really good job of watching his mirror. I knew it was tough to pass all day, but our truck had been so good we hadn’t been able to do it until we got to him. I kept trying to work down and he kept blocking my air down and down and down. Finally, I got one run where I drove up in one and two and then got a big run into three.”
How was your run today?
“This run today is just a credit to everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. They prepared such fast Tundras, it’s a dream come true to be able to drive this thing. I just can’t say enough man about these guys. I’m the one that gets to sit up here and take pictures with the trophy, but my team are the ones that do this. They’ve been so successful with so many different guys, it’s just a credit to them to really show how fast this truck is.”
Was it tough to pass out there today, especially when you were running second to Ryan Truex?
“Yeah, it’s just extremely tough to pass. It’s so flat that you don’t have any banking to lean against. The air is really, really – makes it difficult to get up there and pass them. I could get to his bumper and then I’d screw up and lose the nose and have to fall back five or six car lengths. He did a great job there hanging on and if he didn’t – I kept trying to peel him off the top to get me where I could have an open lane on the top and then finally I did. I could get a run in three.”
Does it take pressure off next week going to Las Vegas knowing that you’re moving on to round two?
“It’s huge to know that we can go and be aggressive at Vegas and Talladega and try and race for more wins. It’s huge for us. You know I’m just happy for all of our partners, you know. To be able to win five races in a year is incredible and really glad that we have SiriusXM on these trucks and JBL and of course Toyota and TRD and Kyle Busch Motorsports – everybody that works on these things and helps us out, this one’s for them.”
How big of a victory was this for you today?
“It was really big. To be able to win the first race and now we can be more aggressive at Vegas and especially Talladega and try and win the race compared to how I did it last year and just kind of had to take my fifth through eighth place finishes and move on. It’s just a credit to Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and Kyle (Busch, owner) and everyone on this group – this team that I’ve got man. They’ve been the team to beat for several years now with multiple different drivers. It’s a different driver every year and the results are the same every year. It’s just a credit to Rudy and how well he can get his trucks driving. I’m the lucky guy to be in the seat.”
Kyle Busch, owner of the No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra:
How satisfying was it to see Christopher Bell take the lead and close the door?
“A good hard-fought battle with Ryan (Truex) up there. We know how good those guys have been here as of late. You know with Christopher being patient and being able to work his way past Ryan was really good obviously for our team and being able to score the victory. Getting these guys to victory lane – getting our Toyota into victory lane for everybody at KBM. It’s nice to see that Christopher and Rudy and the ability that they both have together obviously as they mentioned, it’s a really strong group and I like think that all three teams are strong teams. Just always the veteran driver is taking the lead and being able to push ourselves even harder and make our equipment even better and getting ourselves into victory lane each week. Like Christopher said it’s going to be cool to see these guys go to Vegas and not hold back and give it everything they got and then on to Talladega.”
UNOH 175 Recap:
- Christopher Bell collected his fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2017 and the seventh of his 47-race career. Ryan Truex finished 1.248 seconds behind Bell in the runner-up position. Bell’s KBM teammate Todd Gilliland finished third, while Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured five cautions for a total of 24 laps. There were eight lead changes among five drivers. Bell led four times for a race-high 73 laps and continues to lead the Truck Series with 666 laps led on the season.
How Bell’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished a career-best third
- Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished 15th
NCWTS Driver Championship Standings:
With today’s win Bell, the No. 1 seed in the Truck Series playoffs, earned an automatic berth into the Round of 6. The driver of the No. 4 Tundra will enter the Round of 6 with at least 47 playoff points.
Bell will be behind the wheel of the No. 4 DC Solar Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action on Sept. 30 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the NCWTS 350 begins with the Setup Show at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.