Christopher Bell Wins Thrilling Drivin’ For Linemen 200 At Gatewayby Camille Jones June 26, 2016
MADISON, Ill. – Christopher Bell prevailed in a last-lap battle for the lead to take home the victory in Saturday night’s Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
This was Bell’s second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win and his first win on asphalt in the series. Bell’s first win came at Eldora Speedway in 2015. The driver of the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Toyota Tundra was elated after claiming his first asphalt victory in the series. Bell’s win marks the 50th victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports, tying Roush Fenway Racing for most all-time wins in the series.
“This is just a dream come true,” Bell said. “Eldora came fairly quick in my NASCAR deal, but the next one didn’t come so quick, but this one, it was a long time coming. Man, these guys work so hard week in and week out and they give me awesome race trucks and it’s just nice to be able to give these guys what they deserve. I mean, I just can’t thank everyone enough over there on this No. 4 team.”
Bell started off the season upside down at Daytona International Speedway and the following race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he crashed out in the closing laps; however, with the win at Gateway Motorsports Park, Bell claims a spot in the new Chase format for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, giving him a shot at the championship.
“It’s a dream come true, man,” Bell said. “Going from Atlanta where we almost had it and I made a mistake there and got a tire rub and cut a tire, but long time coming and let me tell you this will make our year a whole lot less stressful.”
In a thrilling series of events as the race unfolded, there were a total of nine cautions for 44 laps, including two red-flags. Three of the cautions were brought out for the Caution Clock expiring after 20 minutes of green-flag racing.
The race featured a ‘big one’ on lap 150, collecting seven cars in a Turn 4 accident, the lap after a restart. The collection of cars resulted in a 10 minute and 50 second red flag. The crashed started when leader, Tyler Reddick slid up the track and into John Hunter Nemechek after a bump from Ben Rhodes in Turn 3. The chain of events collected series veteran, Matt Crafton, Spencer Gallagher, William Byron and German Quiroga.
“That was unfortunate,” Rhodes said. “I had such a good run coming down from one and two. I saw the 9 (William Byron) get loose underneath me. I gave him a bunch of room. We had an awesome run coming down the back stretch and he (Tyler Reddick) started blocking it trying to save his spot. He didn’t want me to take him three of four wide at that time, so I slowed down and I squared up on his bumper and pushed him and I guess I gave him too much momentum going into the corner.”
The exciting action wasn’t only amongst the trucks on Saturday night. After making contact and bringing out the caution in an incident on lap 145, John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher made contact once again on lap 155, bringing out the caution for the final time. As the drivers climbed from their cars, they immediately began exchanging words, before the drivers began to fight on the track, swinging and wrestling each other to the ground. Officials separated the drivers and the race resumed after a 12 minute and 49 second red flag.
In the closing laps, Ben Rhodes, driver of the ThorSport Racing No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota, was unable to make a pass on Bell after the final restart with only two laps to go. The two drivers battled it out on the final lap but Rhodes came up short to finish second, a career high for the Kentucky native.
“He (Christopher Bell) had a really loose truck and that’s what you needed at the end of the race. It just got tighter and tighter and tighter as the runs went on,” Rhodes said. “I was way too tight, but I was making some good ground on the outside. He came up on us a little bit, which is fine – it’s racing for the win at the end and he did an awesome job all night. He raced everybody clean and with respect and I think that’s – we could use a little more of that in our series after this crazy driving, but I had a blast tonight.”
Daniel Hemric, Johnny Sauter and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five. The fifth place finish was very impressive for Jones. Early on in the race on lap 26, he got loose underneath Cameron Hayley and backed his truck into the outside wall, sustaining heavy damage.
“That was a long day for sure and not the day we were looking for, but I just made a mistake at the start and got us in a bad spot there early on,” Jones said. “We had a fast car. We were working our way to the front and I think we were passing for sixth or seventh at that point and just got loose, got into Cameron (Hayley), spun him out and ruined his day and really hurt our day as well. A long day fighting back and everybody did a good job to get the JEGS Tundra back in it and I didn’t know how much damage we had until I got out after the race and saw it, but pretty impressed we were able to get a fifth-place run out of it.
Completing the top-10 in the Drivin’ for Linemen 200 was John Hunter Nemechek, German Quiroga, Kaz Grala, Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters.
Following Saturday night’s race, William Byron, winner of two races so far this season, leads the championship point standings over Matt Crafton by only one point. Timothy Peters is third, three points back, and Daniel Hemric is fourth, only 10 points back from Byron. Sitting 22 points back is Johnny Sauter in fifth.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to action on Thursday, July 7, for the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway. Live coverage will be found on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images