By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After ending the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 flipping end over end, Christopher Bell was hoping to keep all four tires of his No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra on the ground.
Bell started his Kyle Busch Motorsports entry fourth on the grid. The race barely got underway when a 17-truck melee broke out on the second lap. The wreck left nine trucks out of the race, and six other wounded. Luckily for Bell, he was ahead of carnage.
Bell restarted in the Top 10 as Kaz Grala led the field back to the green. As Stage one of the race neared its’ many drivers jockeyed for position. Bell slowly worked his way forward as he tried to capture the 10 Championship points and one playoff point at stake.
As the field exited turn four, Bell was battling Brett Moffitt for the lead. Moffitt broke loose on the inside, but regained control on the apron. At the same time, Bell broke loose after a push from behind. The contact turned Bell into Moffitt. Bell got airborne and landed on all four tires as Moffitt spun into the inside wall.
The accident put both drivers on the new five-minute repair clock. After several stops, Bell’s team repaired his Tundra. The damage to Moffitt’s No. 7 Toyota Tundra was too much, and his Red Horse Racing team was forced to pull the truck into the garage, ending their day.
Despite the damage, Bell’s truck was still competitive. He kept up with the draft and make moves in the second stage. Stage two was tame as the field primarily ran single-file. After the second stage ended on lap 40, everyone hit pit road.
As the race restarted, the field ran two-by-two several rows deep. The laps clicked off as drivers put their trucks into position to make green flag pit stops. First all four of the GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverados ducked onto pit road, leaving the rest of the field to debate when to pit.
A couple laps later, Bell broke loose for a second time. As he chased his truck down onto the apron, he was tagged by his teammate Myatt Snider. The contact sent Bell back up the track and into the path of Korbin Forrister. Forrister plowed into the back of Bell’s truck, straightening Bell out. The damage forced Bell back onto the five-minute repair clock. Somehow, Bell’s team once again repaired his Tundra for the remaining 17 laps of the race.
When the race restarted, it appeared that Bell’s damage would hinder his run. The damage acted like a parachute, slowing him down when he poked out from behind other trucks.
It seemed that Bell would be relegated to a finish outside the Top 10 until John Hunter Nemechek broke loose and spun with five laps to go. The caution set up a three lap sprint to the finish.
Bell restarted deep inside the pack. As the leaders swapped positions and went three-wide, all Bell could do was continue to push. On the last lap, Ben Rhodes spun off the nose of Grant Enfinger. Rhodes, who had been leading the outside lane, clipped race leader Matt Crafton, turning him back up, and into the field. Bell was swept up in the melee and had a front row seat to watching Crafton’s No. 88 Goof Off/Menards Toyota Tundra cart-wheel and land on top of the tailgate of Sauter’s No. 21 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet.
Somehow Bell made it out of the carnage to unofficially cross the line eighth. Meanwhile Grala earned his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Bell sits ninth in points, 23 points behind Grala.
Bell will now look towards next week’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway where he looks to improve his 2016 result there as well.