If Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is any indication, 2017 might be a coming out party for Christopher Bell.
Bell, a 22-year-old native of Norman, OK dominated from the drop of the green flag leading a race-high 99 laps en route to his first win of the 2017 campaign.
Saturday’s win was redemption following last year at Atlanta. It appeared as though Bell was headed to victory lane then when disaster struck with just seven laps to go.
After leading 42 laps, Bell crashed off of turn four, eliminating any chance to win and leaving him with a 26th place finish. Bell said the race from one year ago was fresh on his mind coming to Atlanta this week.
“Well, this was definitely a race I had circled ever since we left here last February, but to be able to be see good here last year and then to come back and be as dominant as what we were was really cool for me and it was just kind of a dream weekend ever since we unloaded.” he said.
Bell said the truck was fast from the get-go and was able to improve throughout the race. He also said being able to restart at the bottom after being stuck back in traffic was critical in winning the race.
“We were really, really fast right off the truck and everything we did to it just made it better and better and better throughout practice,” Bell said. “As soon as they dropped the green in the race, it was just really, really good and then kind of got shuffled there on the restart and got stalled out back there in fifth or sixth, but whenever we were able to restart back on the bottom, we were able to get right back up there.”
While it may be redemption for Bell, it also shows the growth in him as a driver in just over a year. Last year, he started off the season struggling with a series of bad finishes, as noted by four finishes outside of the top-10 in the first seven races despite being fast each week. Though after a couple of low points through the summer last year, it seemed growth as a driver began to happen as consistent finishes were being put together each week, and he qualified as one of the Championship 4 for the Camping World Truck Series Chase.
Now with those lessons put in place to start this year, Bell finished eighth at Daytona despite two incidents, and a win at Atlanta to start off this season, putting him at the top of the points standings.
The early success has been a product of Bell’s growth, but also the team bringing fast trucks to the track, as per team owner Kyle Busch.
“I think it’s just a true testament to everybody at KBM that does such a great job building fast trucks, you know? I think that that’s the first opportunity you’ve got to give these younger drivers and then from there, they have to have the know with all to be able to go out there and succeed in that equipment and we saw it last year,” said Busch.
“Christopher’s now won three years in a row in the Truck Series, which is really cool. We saw it last year with William (Byron) being successful and being able to move on and Christopher is now kind of taking the reins of KBM and being the elder statesman here and the experienced guy in being able to kind of be our lead dog for the championship, so certainly it’s been really fun to watch him and to see him progress from last year into this year and to see the calmness and everything even how crazy Daytona was to see how he came out of that and then to come here and have the focus to just go out there and be fast right off the truck and do all the right things in the race.”
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