Saturday’s Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was filled with wrecks as drivers tried to keep their tires under them on the rough surface. In the end, it was Christopher Bell in Victory Lane for his third career win.
Bell Dominates Beginning And End of Race
Bell became the first NASCAR driver to sweep all three stages of a race in the new split format. He had the dominant truck for much of the race, leading 99 of 130 laps.
His time of adversity came at the end of Stage 2, when he lost the lead off pit road to team owner Kyle Busch. Bell had to restart on the outside lane, which was a problem spot for drivers all race. Spinning the tires, Bell slipped back to fifth with Matt Crafton moving up to second.
He continued to hang around the top five, but unable to battle for the lead until a restart with 18 laps to go. Bell moved up to second and had a side-by-side fight with Crafton for a lap until he retook the lead with 16 to go. Despite a great restart by Crafton with two laps to go, Bell hung on until the end to take home the victory.
BKR Drivers Struggle
Saturday was not the day Brad Keselowski Racing was hoping for, with both drivers having issues throughout the race. Pit stops at the end of Stage 1 were particularly troublesome for the rookie teammates.
Chase Briscoe‘s team missed a lug nut, but the bigger problem came when the No. 29 truck re-entered the track and lost a tire. Briscoe spent time on pit road to pull the rubber off the axle. He finished the race in 25th, three laps down, and sits eighth in the points.
Austin Cindric had a problem on the same pit stop when he received a penalty for an uncontrolled tire. Cindric had bounced back from the infraction, running inside the top 10 late in the race when he’d be sent spinning with six laps to go virtue of contact from Grant Enfinger. He finished one lap down in 21st and is currently 19th in points.
Tires Cause Problems for Contenders
With an aged acing surface like Atlanta, tires are bound to become a storyline. Four drivers with a chance to contend for the win had to deal with tire issues during Saturday’s race.
The first was Chase Elliott, who brought out the second caution of the race on Lap 27 when his tire blew out. Elliott had minimal damage and came back to finish fifth.
Briscoe and John Hunter Nemechek both had flat tires in Stage 2 that ended their days. Nemechek had heavy contact with the wall due to the failure, sending him to the garage and giving him a 29th place finish.
Busch was one of the few drivers who could battle with Bell for the lead, but he did not have the finish to show for it. On the restart with 18 laps to go, Busch had a rear tire go down while in traffic. He slowed down and hit the wall, collecting the Daytona winner Kaz Grala with him. Busch’s team may have won the race, but he finished 26th, three laps down.
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