Date: Nov. 10, 2017
Event: Lucas Oil 150 (Race 22 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway (one-mile oval)
Format: Three Stages; 40 laps/40 laps/70 laps
Start/Finish: 1st/8th (Running, completed 150 of 150 laps)
Winner: Johnny Sauter of GMS Racing (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) teammates Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson had combined to lead the first 140 laps of Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway when a five-truck accident set up a 10-lap dual in the desert.
Having inched past Gragson to regain the lead moments before the caution flew, Bell elected to take the outside lane for the lap-140 restart. For over two laps the teammates battled side-by-side rubbing fenders for the race lead. As they exited turn four with eight laps remaining, Gragson got loose underneath Bell and spun up the track crashing hard into the outside wall before caroming back across the track into another truck. While trying to avoid the spinning Gragson, Bell made contact with the outside wall resulting in heavy damage to the right side of his No. 4 Toyota Tundra.
When pit road opened, Bell surrendered the lead to bring his Tundra to the attention of his over-the-wall crew. After clearing the right-side fenders and putting on fresh right-side tires, they returned their driver to the track scored in the 10th position for the ensuing restart with three laps remaining. The Oklahoma native gained two spots in the closing laps to earn an eighth-place finish.
By finishing the Round of 6 with the most points of the six drivers remaining in the playoffs, Bell earned one of the four spots in the championship race next Friday at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
- Bell started the 150-lap race from the pole, while Gragson started from the second spot. Gragson would lead the first nine laps of the race, before Bell made his way back around him for the lead on lap 10.
- The Oklahoma native would cruise to the Stage One victory, finishing over three seconds ahead of his teammate.
- With the 10 points earned from the Stage One victory, Bell clinched a spot in the championship round.
- Bell reported that the handling of his Tundra was good, but “migrated tight in lap traffic.” When pit road opened, crew chief Rudy Fugle ordered up a right-side tire and fuel stop. With all lead-lap trucks following Bell down pit road, the No. 4 Toyota returned to the track at the front of the field when Stage Two went green on lap 48.
- Bell had over a two-second lead on Gragson when one-truck accident slowed the field on lap 76 and ended Stage Two under caution.
- When pit road opened, Fugle ordered up a four-tire and fuel stop and returned Bell back to the track with the lead for the start of the Final Stage on lap 87.
- Two laps into the Final Stage, Gragson worked his way around Bell for the lead and would remain out front until the third caution of the event occurred on lap 122.
- Gragson chose the outside lane for the lap-128 restart, but Bell would lead momentarily on lap 129. Gragson regained the lead on lap 130, just before a five-truck accident brought out the red flag on lap 131.
- On the ensuing restart, Bell would work his way around Gragson just before another five-truck accident brought out another red-flag condition.
- When the field went back green, the teammates battled hard for the race lead for over two laps before Gragson spun. The accident resulted in damage for both KBM Tundras.
- While Gragson was done for the night with major damage, Bell’s Tundra was able to continue, but severe damage to the right side would keep him from competing for the win.
- After hitting pit road for damage repair and fresh right-side tires, Bell would limp to the finish in the eighth position. It was the 22-year-old’s series-leading 20th top-10 finish of the season.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, driver of the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Can you take us through the side-by-side racing with Noah Gragson?
“It was really intense and we were both doing everything we could to go for the win. It’s a big advantage to be on the outside because you have all the side force and whenever you crowd him like that you take all the air off the side of his truck. I knew that I was playing with fire there and that there was a good possibility that I was going to get us both in trouble. He (Noah Gragson) was doing a really good job down there of hanging onto it and keeping it up – we were just racing really hard and it didn’t work out.”
Lucas Oil 150 Recap:
- Reigning Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter collected his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2017. John Hunter Nemechek finished in the runner-up position, 0.668 seconds behind Sauter. Cody Coughlin finished third, while Chase Briscoe and Kaz Grala rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured six cautions for a total of 38 laps. There were nine lead changes among three drivers. Bell led five times for a race-high 90 laps and continues to lead the Truck Series with 865 laps led on the season.
How Bell’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished seventh
- Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, finished 15th
NCWTS Driver Championship Standings:
Bell finished the Round of 6 with 3,184 points, three more than Johnny Sauter. Sauter earned a spot in the championship round with his two victories in the Round of 6, while Bell, Matt Crafton and Austin Cindric earned the other three spots in next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway based on points.
Bell will be behind the wheel of the No. 4 JBL Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Live coverage of the NCWTS championship race begins with the NCWTS Setup Show at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1.