MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 29, 2016) – Christopher Bell and the No. 4 JBL Tundra team head to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250. While it will be Bell’s first-career start at the .526-mile oval, he’ll have a crew chief, Jerry Baxter, who has won there twice and a chassis, KBM-007, that has been to victory lane there three times.
Baxter’s two wins in the Truck Series at Martinsville both came with Darrell Wallace Jr. In October of 2013 under Baxter’s guidance, Wallace Jr. became the first African-American driver to win a Truck Series event and the first African-American to win a NASCAR national touring series event since Wendell Scott won in the premier division in 1963. Wallace Jr. made it back-to-back victories in the fall race at the Virginia track in 2014, starting from the pole and leading 97 of 200 laps.
Both of Wallace Jr.’s victories at Martinsville came with chassis KBM-007. “007” has totaled eight trips to victory lane in 23 starts since debuting with a win with owner-driver Kyle Busch at Phoenix (Ariz.) in February of 2011 and is tied with chassis KBM-021 for the most victories of any truck in the team’s fleet. In addition to Wallace Jr.’s two wins at the Virginia track with the Tundra, Denny Hamlin drove it to victory lane in October of 2011.
Although he spent a month “off the clock” from Truck Series action, Bell found opportunities to keep his racing skills sharp. The Oklahoma native went to the Rattler 250 Super Late Model race at South Alabama Speedway in Kinston two weekends ago, where his bid for back-to-back victories in the prestigious event came up one spot short after producing a runner-up finish. Last weekend, the 21-year-old wheelman headed to Ohio where he was scheduled to participate in two Sprint Car events. After getting washed out at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park on Friday night, he moved onto Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio Saturday night where he was victorious in the inaugural Ohio Sprint Car Series event.
With momentum from two strong runs outside of Truck Series action, Bell heads to Martinsville looking to hit the reset button and put behind him two disappointing finishes to start the season. While he ranks second in laps led (42) and third in average running position (9.239), misfortunes at the end of both races have left him sitting 21st in the point standings. In past seasons he would have already dug a hole in his quest for a championship, but with the new Truck Series Chase format he knows that one race can quickly turn around your season. With a strong supporting cast around him this weekend, there is no time like the present to get that win.
Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 4 NCWTS JBL Tundra:
What is your outlook heading into your first start at Martinsville?
“Martinsville has flat hairpin turns, doesn’t have any banking and it’s pretty slow. Coming from the dirt world, it doesn’t really fit my style, but I know that Jerry’s had a lot of success there and that will help speed up my learning curve. Having Kyle as a teammate this weekend will also be a big help and I’m looking forward to that. We’ve had fast JBL Tundras the first two races and I’m confident we’ll have another one — now I just need to stay out of trouble and bring home the finish that my team deserves.”
Do you feel that your experience in the Late Models the last few season is going to help prepare you for Martinsville?
“I’ve watched the races from the last few years at Martinsville to see how they played out and I definitely think that there are similarities to some of the longer Late Model races. My background is in Midgets and Sprint Cars on dirt and the races are 30 to 50 laps and you are just full tilt the whole race and don’t have to worry about the tires. In the Late Model races there are definitely periods where you have to back off and ride and save your tires and your equipment until the end, and from everything I’ve watched and everything that Jerry has told me, that’s exactly what I’ll have to do this weekend to deliver a strong finish.”
Jerry Baxter, crew chief of the No. 4 NCWTS JBL Tundra:
“You’ve had a lot of success at Martinsville since coming to KBM. What does it take to have a strong run there?”
A driver that doesn’t overcharge the corners and knows how to save his tires. It’s a 250-lap race with a limited amount of tires, so it’s all about tire management and keeping your nose clean until the end. Christopher just went to the Rattler Super Late Model race down in South Alabama and did a really good job executing those same things, so that was a good warmup for this weekend.”
Christopher Bell’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra:
KBM-007: The No. 4 JBL Racing team will unload “007” for Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Saturday’s 250-lap event will mark the Tundra’s 24th career mission at KBM. With eight career wins, “007” is currently tied for the most wins of any chassis in the team’s fleet and three of those wins have come at Martinsville.
The Book on Baxter:
Veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter is in his fourth season atop the pit box for KBM. Combined in his first three seasons, Baxter’s drivers posted seven wins, three poles, 1171 laps led, 24 top-five and 40 top-10 finishes across 67 starts. The California native spent the 2015 season calling the shots for KBM’s No. 51 team, which collected two wins, 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes with drivers Daniel Suarez (12 starts), Matt Tifft (six starts), Kyle Busch (three starts), and Christopher Bell (one start) behind the wheel. In addition to his seven wins at KBM, he boasts one other Truck Series win (Cale Gale, 2012) and one NASCAR XFINITY Series win (David Reutimann, 2007).
Baxter’s Truck Series drivers have posted two wins (Darrell Wallace Jr., 203 & 2014), one pole, 261 laps led, four top-five and six top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 9.9 across nine starts at the Virginia track.