Late in the going in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville, Christopher Bell looked to be in the catbird seat with the lead in the waning laps, but after contact with a truck at the tail-end of the lead lap, Bell’s shot at the win was gone and he had to settle for a third-place finish.
After winning at Atlanta, Bell was looking to make it two wins in a row by adding a Martinsville grandfather clock to his trophy case.
Starting the day in sixth place, Bell finished the first stage in fourth place, but was able to make his way to the lead after a fast stop on pit road during the caution for the stage break. Though he held onto the lead when the second stage began, Johnny Sauter got the jump on him on the restart and took over the lead at that point.
Just like the end of the first stage, Bell took over the lead for the start of the final stage at lap 144. However, this go around, he was able to hang onto the top spot and set off toward winning the race.
As Bell continued to lead Chase Elliott and Johnny Sauter with 17 laps to go, he found himself with lapped traffic in front of him and the need to make it past without letting Elliott and Sauter catch him. Beating and banging on the rear bumper of Austin Cindric’s No. 19 truck to try and get him out of the way, Bell thought he had an opening to get past the rookie when they got down to Turn 1, but the door quickly closed.
Bell dove low on Cindric at the entrance to Turn 1, but his angle of entry into the corner made him wash up the track, sending Cindric for a spin and allowing Elliott and Sauter to drive right past him.
“He’s going a lap down, with 20 laps to go in the race and I’m leading,” Bell said as he recounted the incident. “I ran into the back of him in (Turns) 3 and 4, and he slid all the way off the bottom to the fence off of (Turn) 4, so I thought I would be able to shove my nose and get underneath him and then he decided to go down to the bottom with me and I got trapped there.”
Relegated to third place because of the contact, Bell gave it his all to try and get back by the two GMS Racing trucks to the lead, but third place is where he would remain for the rest of the event.
“My guys gave me a really fast JBL Tundra,” Bell added. “Third isn’t what we wanted, but overall it was a really good day for us and it’s something for us to build off of when we come back here in the fall.”
Despite the near-miss in winning a second race in a row, Bell leaves Martinsville just four points out of the points lead and with the most playoff points as the Truck Series takes a break of more than a month before heading to Kansas for their next race in mid-May.