Christopher Bell wins two-lap shootout for Atlanta victory
March 4, 2017
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
HAMPTON, Ga. – Christopher Bell unquestionably had the dominant truck in Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200, but, in the end, the driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra had to work hard for the third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of his career.
In the nightcap of a NASCAR doubleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bell held off fellow Tundra driver Matt Crafton in a two-lap shootout to the finish for his first win of the 2017 season.
Austin Cindric’s spin on Lap 124 of 130 brought out the eighth and final caution of the race and set up the final two-lap dash. Bell restarted on the inside on Lap 129, with Crafton in the outside lane. Crafton held his own through the first two corners, but Bell pulled ahead on the backstretch and finally cleared Crafton’s No. 88 Toyota off Turn 4.
One lap later, Bell crossed the finish line .447 seconds ahead of Crafton, with defending series champion Johnny Sauter trailing the lead pair in third place. Ben Rhodes ran fourth, followed by Chase Elliott and Grand Enfinger, who tangled with Cindric to cause the final caution.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to get the best restart I could,” Bell said. “I didn’t want to get my momentum broken. These Truck races are really tough to get restarts going, because it’s so aero-dependent.
“You can get all sorts of momentum or you can get all sorts of momentum taken away from you. That happened to me there in the middle section of the race.”
\but the truck was there when it counted.
“It was just a dream machine. It was really, really good.”
Clearly, that was an understatement. Bell edged his team owner for the pole position in Saturday morning’s qualifying session and proceeded to lead the first 83 laps, claiming both the first and second 40-lap stage wins in the process.
In fact, Bell was so dominant in the second stage that crossed the stripe 8.030 seconds ahead of Busch, who nevertheless took the lead with an excellent pit stop, putting Bell in the outside lane for the start of Stage 3 on Lap 88.
Bell subsequently fell back to fifth in the running order, but after two cautions, he restarted from the inside lane on the third row on lap 113 and one lap later passed Crafton for the lead.
Busch, who won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race earlier in the day, fell back with a cut tire on the Lap 113 restart and finished 26th, but he could take solace from the quality of Bell’s effort – not to mention the progress the 22-year-old has made since Busch signed the open-wheel star to a full-time ride last year.
“We’re still trying to get the Sprint Car out of him,” Busch quipped after the race. “This kid grows up running 30-lap features, and after 30 laps his tires are worn out.”
On Saturday, however, Bell decisively overcame the “Days of Thunder” mentality Busch described, and with the race win and two stage victories, came away with all seven available playoff points in the process.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – Active Pest Control 200
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Saturday, March 04, 2017
1. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 130.
2. (7) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 130.
3. (6) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 130.
4. (15) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 130.
5. (9) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 130.
6. (5) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 130.
7. (18) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 130.
8. (14) Grant Enfinger #, Toyota, 130.
9. (8) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 130.
10. (24) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 130.
11. (13) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 130.
12. (23) Regan Smith, Ford, 130.
13. (21) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 130.
14. (10) Noah Gragson #, Toyota, 130.
15. (12) Kaz Grala #, Chevrolet, 130.
16. (16) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, 130.
17. (25) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 130.
18. (27) Austin Hill, Ford, 130.
19. (20) Stewart Friesen #, Chevrolet, 130.
20. (30) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 130.
21. (3) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 129.
22. (17) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, 128.
23. (26) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 128.
24. (22) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 128.
25. (4) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 127.
26. (2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 127.
27. (31) Mike Harmon(i), Chevrolet, 124.
28. (28) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Accident, 102.
29. (11) John H Nemechek, Chevrolet, Accident, 79.
30. (32) Akinori Ogata, Chevrolet, Oil Leak, 51.
31. (19) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, Fuel Pump, 28.
32. (29) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, Overheating, 2.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 108.477 mph.
Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 50 Mins, 44 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.446 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 38 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Bell 1-83; K. Busch(i) 84-108; G. Enfinger # 109-112; M. Crafton 113; C. Bell 114-127; M. Crafton 128; C. Bell 129-130.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bell 3 times for 99 laps; K. Busch(i) 1 time for 25 laps; G. Enfinger # 1 time for 4 laps; M. Crafton 2 times for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,51,88,27,19,21,8,29,98,99
Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,51,27,17,88,21,24,23,66,7
Kaz Grala avoids last-lap melee to become youngest Daytona winner
February 24, 2017
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the space of 100 laps, Kaz Grala went from youngest NASCAR national series pole winner at Daytona International Speedway to youngest NASCAR national series race winner at Daytona.
What happened between the first green flag and the checkers, however, could fill volumes.
Miraculously, Grala slipped through a wild wreck on the backstretch on the final lap of Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 to win the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race contested in stages under NASCAR’s new competition format.
That final wreck, ignited when Ben Rhodes spun from the outside lane off the bumper of ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger, wiped out veteran contenders Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton.
But Grala—18 years, 1 month and 26 days old—drove through the melee as trucks bounced off each other like pinballs on either side of him. Grala claimed the trophy for his first national series victory and the five playoff points that go with a race win under NASCAR’s new scoring system.
Austin Wayne Self took the runner-up spot, followed by Chase Briscoe, and the father-son combination of John Hunter Nemechek and Joe Nemechek in fourth and fifth.
“That was freaking awesome! I can’t believe we won Daytona,” Grala said in Victory Lane. “I couldn’t see a lot there. I knew it was a little bit risky. It was the last lap, and we had to do what we had to do.
“I saw coming out of (Turn) 2 it starting to get crazy. There wasn’t going to be any way I was going to be lifting (off the accelerator). I was just going to go low, cross my fingers and close my eyes a little bit.
“Luckily, it worked out for me. I just can’t believe it. It’s so surreal.”
Self put it much more succinctly.
“When all hell broke loose, we were in the right spot.”
The race didn’t wait until the last lap to get crazy. On the second lap, Briscoe, racing for the first time in the Truck Series, gave Noah Gragson’s Toyota an off-center tap on the rear bumper, sending Gragson bouncing off the outside wall in Turn 1 and out of control.
By the time the smoke cleared, 17 trucks—one more than half the field—had sustained varying degrees of damage in the wreck.
Gragson, Austin Cindric and Ryan Truex couldn’t continue. Same for Ross Chastain and Clay Greenfield. John Hunter Nemechek stayed on the lead lap but fell victim to a flat tire as Stage 2 of the race came to an end with Sauter in the lead.
“I took a few hard hits out there,” said Gragson, who was unhurt in the wreck. “Just a bummer. I didn’t want to end the race like this, but I had a good time for the lap I got.
“Felt like the 29 (Briscoe) hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval. It just got me loose, and it got pointed into the outside wall.”
In the final 60-lap stage, all four GMS Chevrolet pitted early on Lap 68. Though Spencer Gallagher and ultimate sixth-place finisher Scott Lagasse Jr. drew speeding penalties while exiting pit road, Sauter reclaimed the lead, with Grala trailing him, when Christopher Bell’s Toyota got loose in Turn 4, slowed and spun off the bumper of Timothy Peters’ Tundra.
Sauter, the defending series champion, looked to be in control of the race until John Hunter Nemechek’s spin off Turn 2 on Lap 95 of 100 caused the fifth and final caution and set up a chaotic two-lap run to the finish.
Wrecked on the backstretch, Sauter was credited with a 15th-place finish but collected two playoff points for winning both the first and second stages, each lasting 20 laps.
Bell, one of the preseason favorites for the championship, sustained heavy damage in three wrecks, including the last one, but his seemingly indestructible No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra made it to the finish line in eighth-place, salvaging a respectable result from a potentially disastrous night.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – NextEra Energy Resources 250
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida
Friday, February 24, 2017
- (1) Kaz Grala #, Chevrolet, 100.
- (22) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 100.
- (16) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 100.
- (19) John H Nemechek, Chevrolet, 100.
- (9) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 100.
- (25) Regan Smith, Ford, 100.
- (14) Scott Lagasse Jr(i), Chevrolet, 100.
- (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 100.
- (27) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 100.
- (13) Myatt Snider, Toyota, 100.
- (17) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, 100.
- (8) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 100.
- (3) Spencer Gallagher(i), Chevrolet, 100.
- (7) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 99.
- (2) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 99.
- (11) Grant Enfinger #, Toyota, 99.
- (5) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 99.
- (31) Todd Peck(i), Chevrolet, 99.
- (28) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, 98.
- (10) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, Accident, 71.
- (21) Bobby Gerhart(i), Chevrolet, Radiator, 41.
- (6) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, Accident, 20.
- (23) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, Accident, 12.
- (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Engine, 11.
- (24) Terry Jones, Ford, Accident, 4.
- (12) Noah Gragson, Toyota, Accident, 1.
- (18) Austin Cindric #, Ford, Accident, 1.
- (20) Ryan Truex, Toyota, Accident, 1.
- (15) Clay Greenfield, Chevrolet, Accident, 1.
- (26) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 1.
- (29) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, Accident, 1.
- (30) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, Accident, 1.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 129.72 mph.
Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 55 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.
Caution Flags: 6 for 29 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Grala # 1-13; C. Bell 14-15; S. Gallagher(i) 16-17; B. Moffitt 18-19; J. Sauter 20-43; T. Peck(i) 44; T. Peters 45-46; C. Bell 47-48; J. Sauter 49-51; B. Rhodes 52-68; C. Bell 69-70; B. Rhodes 71-73; J. Sauter 74-98; M. Crafton 99; K. Grala # 100;.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Sauter 3 times for 52 laps; B. Rhodes 2 times for 20 laps; K. Grala # 2 times for 14 laps; C. Bell 3 times for 6 laps; B. Moffitt 1 time for 2 laps; S. Gallagher(i) 1 time for 2 laps; T. Peters 1 time for 2 laps; T. Peck(i) 1 time for 1 lap; M. Crafton 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 21,17,27,33,23,29,5,24,87,8
Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,33,23,24,17,27,4,51,87,22