By Michael Guzman
Homestead, FL – Every season as the playoff picture becomes clearer, the laps wind down and a champion materializes before our eyes. NASCAR’s current playoff format therefore poses a question every year:
Is it more satisfying if the best driver all season defies the playoff system and completes their championship quest, or is it inherently better to hope for chaos and the creation of an opportunistic Cinderella story?
The answer, at least this season, is that the best driver in the best truck won. And that’s the way it should be.
Christopher Bell — driving for Kyle Busch, whose 2015 title marked perhaps the most chaotic championship in the sports history – was the dominant driver. And it showed once again at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Things went our way,” Bell said following the race. “As soon as we fired off there I knew that my truck was really, really good. I could kind of just take it easy. Whenever you get to these pavement races and you can go fast without trying as hard, you’re always in better shape because you can take care of your tires so much easier.”
Following a victory at the Chili Bowl Nationals in January, Bell began a torrid run through the truck series that included five wins, four poles, 11 stage wins, 15 top-five finishes, and 21 top-10 runs.
“As a calendar year overall I don’t think it gets much better than that,” Bell said. “But you can’t compare the two. One of them is a race and one of them is a championship over the course of a year… to be able to win both is really a dream come true.”
Bell gained even more confidence late in the season, entering victory lane in the Xfinity Series race at Kansas following a dramatic pass over 2015 truck series champion Erik Jones.
“Him winning that Xfinity race I believe gave him a big boost confidence-wise,” veteran Johnny Sauter, who finished second in the standings, one spot on track behind Bell, said following the race. “I was a little bit worried about that when he did that… Obviously he was way too loose here last year after I watched the replay of the race and this year they said he was too tight on the radio all night.”
The talented truck series champion has been surrounded by some of the best in the business, and exceled when given the opportunity like many others before him. For Kyle Busch, whose team has now won two of the past three titles, Bell’s title serves as further proof that the Oklahoma native is continuing his development from dirt prodigy to asphalt ace just as planned.
“To see guys like Christopher Bell and William Byron and Erik Jones and the talents that they have and the ability that they show behind the wheel of our Tundras to just take them to Victory Lane, take them to championships, is what we’re all about,” team owner Kyle Busch said sitting next to his championship driver after the race.
Obviously this is kind of a goodbye moment, but being teammates with him again next year at Joe Gibbs Racing is going to be a lot of fun, and looking forward to seeing him continue to grow and evolve in this sport.”