NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Christopher Bell Satisified with Third-Place Championship Finish

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In the aftermath of Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200, there were quite a few long faces in the Camping World Truck Series paddock.

Matt Crafton sounded completely defeated after finishing seventh, convinced that he had the title within his clutches before it slipped away. Timothy Peters really didn’t have a whole lot to say either.  While race winner William Byron was pretty pleased with his accomplishment that clinched the 2016 Truck Series owners’ championship, truck owner Kyle Busch was bummed out during his press conference due to the blown engine that Byron suffered at Phoenix International Raceway that prevented the team from taking both titles.

Other than champion Johnny Sauter and his No. 21 team, Christopher Bell seemed to be just about the only Chaser who actually walked out of Homestead-Miami Speedway with a smile on his face.  Why? Because he managed to come back to claim an eighth-place finish with a truck that was “horrible” early on in the race.

“I’m really thankful for all my guys on this No. 4 team,” Bell said post-race.  “We were pretty far off to start the race, but they threw the kitchen sink at it, and we got a lot better.  At the end, we were good enough to compete with [Crafton and Peters], but [Sauter] was really good.”

Bell’s struggles were most acute during the second run of the race, when he dropped all the way back to 19th and hit the SAFER barrier a couple of times. But those instances of contact did not hurt the No. 4 Toyota Tundra too much.

“I didn’t notice any balance changes after I hit the wall,” Bell said.  “I don’t think I really hit it too hard; just kind of kissed it.  It’s just the product of trying to get everything that you can get.”

A “never-give-up attitude” allowed Bell to put himself back into contention later in the race.  Bell was able to pressure Crafton for what was then the top spot among the Chasers late, but fell back just as Sauter was charging forward.

Bell’s start to the season was rather inauspicious.  The NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway ended with a blowover flip on the final lap.  A big hit at Atlanta Motor Speedway eight days and a subpar finish at Martinsville Speedway left Bell 21st in points, quite a ways behind.  After all that before the start of May, Bell is more than happy with his third-place points finish.

“After how the year started, to finish third in points was a really big accomplishment for us,” Bell said.  “It was a heck of a race for second, third and fourth in points.  I hope the fans enjoyed it because, I tell you what, that was definitely one of the most fun races I’ve run in my life.”

Finishing third in points gives Bell and the No. 4 team some momentum going into the offseason.  For 2017, Bell will be right back in the No. 4 Toyota, eager to have at it and earn another chance at a championship.

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