By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Entering Saturday night’s DC Solar 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell had just a 15-point lead over John Hunter Nemechek who sat in seventh, behind the Chase cut-off. With Talladega Superspeedway being the final race in the Round of Eight, all of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chasers were looking to add to their cushion.
In the only two practices, Bell’s DC Solar Toyota Tundra was 14th fastest and 11th fastest respectively.
Bell qualified his Kyle Busch Motorsports truck 18th on the starting grid.
Once the race got under way, Bell quickly began to move up through the field. Bell followed competitor Tyler Reddick as others fought handling issues.
By the time the caution clock reached zero on lap 38, Bell had climbed into the top 10. As the field made it’s way down pit road, Bell held his position.
The ensuing restart seemed smooth until flames appeared in the tailpipes of Bell’s Tundra. As Bell lost momentum, those restarting behind him took evasive action. Bell lost multiple positions as he finally reached fourth gear. Before Bell lost too much ground, the caution waved as Wayne Edwards tagged the wall.
As the field circulated under the second caution, Bell and his team determined that they may had lost third gear. Bell was told on the radio by crew chief Jerry Baxter, “be careful and push through from second to fourth.”
Bell once again lost positions on the next restart, but pushed forward. After Bell finally regained his momentum, he began to fly through the field. Bell once again reached the top 10 as the caution clock expired for the second and final time of the night.
As the field exited pit road, Bell rolled off in the eighth position. As the field circulated under caution, Bell asked Baxter for advice.
On the radio, Baxter calmly said to Bell, “Pull down on the restart. Don’t go to far down, but pull down and stay clear.”
Bell did exactly that on the restart, losing only a handful of positions. Bell quickly regained his momentum and fought to regain his track position. With about 30 laps to go Bell had climbed back into the top 10.
Bell began to battle John Wes Townley and fellow Chasers Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters for position. After Peters passed Townley on the outside, Bell ducked below Townley’s No. 05 Jive Communications Chevrolet Silverado. Bell slowed caught up to and passed both Crafton and Peters as well.
When the checkered flag waved, Bell crossed the line in sixth. Bell increased his gap over the Chaser now seventh place in points, Daniel Hemric, to 25-points. This was Bell’s 13th top 10 in 18 races this season.
After the race, Bell was frustrated, but relieved just to finish in sixth.
“I don’t really know what the situation was there. For whatever reason when I would put it (the gear) into third, and I’d give it RPMs and it would kick it back out. On my restarts I was having to go from second to fourth, and it killed us. We had a shot today. We had a really good DC Solar, JBL Toyota Tundra. I’m just really happy with my pit crew, they saved me a lot tonight. They did an awesome job. Overall it was a good points day for us, and I look forward to getting Talladega over with and moving on to the next round.”
Bell will now look ahead to the final race in the Round of Eight, the Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway, where he will hope to avoid the unpredictable and move on to the Round of Six.