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The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign has been one to remember for Christopher Bell. Kyle Busch Motorsports’ top performer, Bell has a series-leading five wins, five pole positions, and enters the weekend a favorite among Championship 4 candidates.
The driver of the No. 4 truck has earned a top 10 in all but two races this year. The series’ most consistent driver, he wants to bring the title trophy home to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Mooresville, N.C. headquarters.
“This year, I was getting in the truck William [Byron] just had a really successful year in,” Bell said looking back on 2017. “You always want to perform when that situation comes up. My crew chief Rudy Fugle is so good and he brings such fast Tundras to the track week-in and week-out. What he does season-after-season with multiple drivers is something I know he’s proud of and I’m proud to drive for him.”
Bell is attempting to make a comeback after falling five spots short of capturing the championship in 2016. The turnaround is certainly visible, with the No. 4 truck pulling into Victory Lane in nearly a quarter of races run this season.
“I have fast trucks this year,” Bell said. “That’s been the biggest difference-maker, just being able to unload off the truck, go fast, and be able to win races. Last year, we weren’t able to win and we came into Homestead kind of barely making it, squeaking through. [This year] we’ve been winning a bunch of races and competing for the win week-in and week-out.”
His year is highlighted by victories at Atlanta, Texas, Kentucky, Pocono, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. However, the last of those triumphs came September in Loudon; Bell has been winless ever since.
That’s opened the door for other contenders. Championship rival Johnny Sauter has picked up back-to-back victories, soaring through the Round of 6. He enters Homestead-Miami Speedway with more momentum than his Championship 4 peers.
The pressure is on for Bell to take the title after announcing he’s leaving KBM after the season. The organization has yet to name a replacement for Bell next year although there are plenty of applicants based on its yearly success.
But championship hardware has eluded this Toyota juggernaut under the new format. Byron flopped in the playoffs last year, erasing a dominant season. Bell did advance only to come up short in the Championship 4. Now, it is up to the No. 4 team to bring the organization its second driver’s title.
As Bell prepares for his final Truck Series race as a full-time competitor, he will be using lessons learned from last year in an attempt to ride into the Miami sunset on top.
“I’ve been through this one time now to know what it’s about,” he said. “To know what the pressure is like when it becomes seven o’clock tomorrow night and they tell us to strap in. The biggest thing is just knowing what it’s about.”
Whatever happens come Friday evening’s Ford EcoBoost 200, Bell knows his 2018 ride is waiting for him. The Oklahoma native will be Joe Gibbs Racing’s newest XFINITY Series full-time driver, piloting the No. 20 car with the assistance of veteran crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“I’m stoked to race for Jason,” Bell said. “He’s an accomplished crew chief. To be able to drive for a guy like him, a guy who’s coming down to the XFINITY Series from the Cup Series and to be at Joe Gibbs Racing is a dream come true.”