MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 1, 2016) – Christopher Bell and the No. 4 JBL Racing team head to Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in Fort Worth for Friday night’s Striping Technology 350. The 147-lap event is the second of the three races that make up the Round of 6 and decide the four drivers that will compete for the championship in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase elimination-style playoff format.
Bell’s first visit to TMS this season seemed to have marked a turning point for the young driver. Texas was the first track on the schedule that the 21-year-old was competing at for a second time, after posting an eighth-place finish at the 1.5-mile tri-oval while competing in a limited schedule in 2015. Once the field hit the track in June, the JBL Tundra showed good long-run speed in both practices sessions and earned the ninth starting position for the race. Bell’s hopes of the home track victory quickly diminished when he failed to complete a lap after he suffered terminal engine problems when he missed a shift at the start of the race.
Since that night, the open-wheel dirt standout converted to a pavement prodigy, has turned his season around. With a string of consistent runs, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has become a serious contender for the Truck Series championship. In the 13 races since Texas, the talented wheelman has finished inside the top 10 12 times, including five top fives. Just two weeks after Texas, he earned his spot in the Truck Series Chase with a victory at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill.
Bell enters Friday night’s race having finished sixth or better in six consecutive Truck Series events, including a fourth-place finish in the first race of the Round of 6 last week at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In the four events already concluded in the Chase he has produced an average finish of 4.5 and with two races remaining in this round currently is 13 points above the cutoff line to compete in the Championship 4 at Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway.
The Oklahoma native hopes that Texas Motor Speedway will once again serve as the turning point in his quest for the Truck Series title as he looks to lock himself into the Championship 4 with a victory under the lights on Friday night.
Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 4 NCWTS JBL Tundra:
Do you enjoy racing at Texas?
“Texas is one of my favorite tracks — it’s a place where you can move around to find speed and pass people, so that makes for a fun race and being from Oklahoma it’s as close as we get to home on the NASCAR schedule for me. It’s unfortunate that I missed a shift at the beginning of the June race, because I felt like we had one of the best trucks throughout practice. I’m excited to get back there this time and I’m confident that we’ll be able to compete for a win. JBL is going to have a group of executives there on Friday night, so it would mean a lot to be able to get a win for them and celebrate with them in victory lane.”
How does Johnny Sauter’s win at Martinsville change how you will approach these next two races?
“It definitely changes things a little bit with Sauter getting a win at Martinsville. In the first round, of the three races only one of them was won by a guy in the Chase, so that left five openings to advance by points. One of the four spots at Homestead is already taken and if Chase guys were to win the next two races, that would leave only one spot in the championship round that would be determined by points. The next two tracks are places that KBM has been really good at — they’ve won the last two races at Texas and I think four of the last five at Phoenix — so our mindset is to go out and win one of the next two and get locked in. With that said, we know that we currently have the most points besides Sauter, who is already locked in, so we can’t get over aggressive going for a win this week at Texas and turn a good day into a bad day and fall back in the standings because at least one driver is going to get into the Championship 4 based on the points.”
Jerry Baxter, crew chief of the No. 4 NCWTS JBL Tundra:
After a solid finish at Martinsville, what is your outlook heading into Texas?
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Texas. We were really fast in practice in June, but unfortunately had a mechanical issue at the start of the race and didn’t get to show it. We are bringing that same truck this weekend and since then we’ve implemented some updates and freshened it up, so we feel like it should be even better. I think our whole team is peaking at the right time — Christopher’s had a nice stretch of races where he’s taken care of his equipment and had solid finishes and our pit crew has been doing a great job as well. The guys at the shop have worked hard to be prepared for these final three races and we have our best two mile-and-a-half trucks ready to go, including a brand new Tundra that we’ll be taking to Homestead.”
What is the key to having a fast truck at Texas?
“You have to make sure that your driver is stable on entry and that they are able to finish the exit of the corner without getting too tight and pushing up the track. We worked on that a lot last year with Daniel (Suarez) and continued to work on that in the spring with Christopher. You also have to be able to move around the track as the race goes on. When you look back at the end of the spring race you can see that is the case with William (Byron) and Rico (Abreu) moving up to the top in the closing laps. Christopher is really good at moving up to the top and we are both really excited for this race.”
Christopher Bell’s No. 4 JBL Tundra:
KBM-39: The No. 4 JBL Racing team will unload KBM-39 for Friday night’s Striping Technology 350. Bell has posted two top-five and four top-10 finishes in five starts with the Tundra this season.
The Book on Baxter:
Veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter is in his fourth season atop the pit box for KBM. Since joining KBM, Baxter’s drivers have posted eight wins, three poles, 1368 laps led, 33 top-five and 55 top-10 finishes across 87 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 eight wins at KBM, he boasts one other Truck Series win (Cale Gale, 2012) and one NASCAR XFINITY Series win (David Reutimann, 2007).
Baxter’s drivers have collected two top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 12.8 across eight starts at Texas. Daniel Suarez finished second in both races in the Lone Star State with Baxter calling the shots in 2015.