DUQUOIN, Ill. — In a year chock-full of charmed moments, it was only fitting that Christopher Bell capped off his dream season with a thrilling victory during Saturday night’s third annual Junior Knepper 55 at the Southern Illinois Center.
Bell charged late in the 55-lap main event on DuQuoin’s indoor sixth-mile, taking the lead from former Belleville Midget Nationals champion and race-long dominator Chad Boat with four to go and holding off fellow NASCAR star Chase Briscoe on a green-white-checkered finish.
The win was Bell’s fifth USAC National Midget Series win in eight starts on the season, as well as finally broke Clauson-Marshall Racing’s stranglehold on the ‘Mini Magic Mile’.
Entering Saturday’s event, the Tim Clauson and Tyler Ransbottom combination had turned wrenches for every prior USAC winner at the Southern Illinois Center, dating back to the 2015 edition of the Knepper when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went to victory lane.
But by the end of the marathon haul, it was a smiling Bell who put that record to rest, at least for one night.
“Man, I hope the fans enjoyed that one,” Bell said in victory lane. “This place is always a ton of fun to come to and really fun to race at. Hats off to the track crew. They did an excellent job giving us a ton of options; it was nice, slick and wide, all the way to the wall. It was everything we needed and I had a blast out there.”
“When I saw the (No.) 5 (Chase Briscoe) was in second, I knew the bottom must have been coming in,” Bell added. “That’s pretty typical of this place, though. Once (the groove) gets up by the wall, it just becomes a long way around. I was racing defense the last few laps, just trying to make sure I did my job, ran smooth and hit my marks. Thankfully, it all worked out.”
Briscoe charged forward on a last-lap pass to snag the runner-up spot after a torrid battle with Boat on the final restart, with former Shamrock Classic winner Shane Golobic completing the podium in third, just as he did in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway a month prior.
Boat and Justin Grant completed the top five.
This story will be updated…
RESULTS: USAC National Midget Series; Junior Knepper 55; Southern Illinois Center; Dec. 16, 2017
A-Feature (55 laps): 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Chase Briscoe, 3. Shane Golobic, 4. Chad Boat, 5. Justin Grant, 6. Dillon Welch, 7. Tanner Berryhill, 8. Parker Price-Miller, 9. Tanner Carrick, 10. Tyler Courtney, 11. Tony Bruce Jr., 12. Daniel Robinson, 13. Tim Crawley, 14. Zeb Wise, 15. Trey Marcham, 16. Tyler Nelson, 17. Shane Cottle, 18. Justin Peck, 19. Tony Roney, 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 21. Jake Neuman.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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