LOUDON, N.H. — Christopher Bell used a clean sweep of Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send a clear message to the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff field: the road to the championship goes through him.
Bell dominated the ‘Magic Mile’ en route to his seventh-career win and fifth of the season, leading a race-high 73 laps in his No. 4 SiriusXM Toyota Tundra.
He took the lead for the final time with 16 laps to go, using a textbook slide job to power past Ryan Truex entering Turn 3 and never looking back from there.
“(Truex) was doing a really good job of watching his mirrors,” Bell said in victory lane. “I knew it was tough to pass all day but our truck was so good … I knew we would be able to do it until we got to him. I kept trying to work down and he kept blocking my air down and down and down. Finally, I got one run where I could go up in (Turns) 1 and 2 and I got a big run into (Turn) 3 and it paid off for us.”
It was the second-straight win for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Loudon, using almost the exact same recipe for victory that William Byron did a year ago in Loudon.
Bell was driving the exact same truck Byron won with, with the same crew chief atop the pit box in Rudy Fugle.
At the end of the day, all the pieces came together to equal another checkered flag.
“It’s a dream come true to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports, man,” Bell said. “These guys do such an excellent job preparing these trucks. Thank you to everyone from KBM for building such a fast truck; it’s an honor to drive them.”
Though Truex used a similar dive-bomb restart to assume the race lead on a restart with 44 laps left, pacing the next 28 circuits, he didn’t have quite enough to hold back Bell and came home with a runner-up finish.
The effort tied his career-best, set at Daytona Int’l Speedway in 2016.
“It is (tough),” Truex said of missing out on the victory. “We’ve come so far with this group and I’m so proud of them. … Chris has been the best truck all year. When you’ve got the best truck in the field behind you, it makes it tougher. I did everything I could to hold him off. I was trying to take his lane and block and everything, I just didn’t quite have the grip he had. I want to thank him for racing me clean, though. It was a fun race.”
“I wouldn’t have been here without (crew chief) Scott Zipadelli making the calls. I didn’t know how this race was going to shake out, so every restart I gave it my all. There was a lot of three wide stuff that probably pissed a couple people off, but we’re trying to win races and we’re getting close. We’ll get ours soon.”
Rookie Todd Gilliland scored his career-best finish in just his fourth start by coming home in third, with Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen rounding out a top five in which Bell was the only playoff-eligible driver.
Matt Crafton was sixth ahead of fellow championship contenders Ben Rhodes, Austin Cindric, Johnny Sauter and Kaz Grala.
A mediocre day for Chase Briscoe left him 11th in the final rundown, dropping him to seventh in the standings as a result.
John Hunter Nemechek suffered drive-train issues during the first stage and fell nearly 40 laps down in the garage while his team made repairs. He finished 20th and leaves Loudon eighth in points, seven back of the cut line.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…