SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — official release — Jeff Arns photo — Night two of the Pepsi Nationals at Angell Park Speedway on Sunday night looked very similar to the first at the end of the 30-lap Honda National Midget feature, co-sanctioned by both POWRi and BMARA, as the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team led by Christopher Bell made it two consecutive nights sweeping the podium.
The defending national champion from Norman, Okla., led the final 12 laps virtually unrivaled on his way to the program sweep after winning his heat and taking the ProSource Fast Time award.
Garrett Aitken jumped from the front row to lead the opening lap before Michael Pickens pounced for the top spot. The New Zealand driver was strong early, opening up his advantage over a long green-flag stretch to start the race. Aitken held on to second for a while as Bell and teammate Tanner Thorson navigated their way from row three.
Those two disposed of Aitken and took second and third, bringing fourth-row starter Chris Windom with them. Just after the halfway mark, the race’s first caution flew as Spencer Bayston slowed.
After a yellow two laps later, Bell went to work on the low side underneath Pickens. On lap 19, Bell finally got the run off the bottom to clear Pickens through turns three and four and take the lead. Windom was pressuring Thorson for third, but on the second restart, Windom’s car did not take off as well as the top-three, and Thorson got away from him and also moved by Pickens.
Over the final few laps, National point leader Rico Abreu started to make up ground after starting eighth and falling back as far as tenth. The St. Helena, California driver flipped in his heat race after qualifying fourth and won the Semi-Feature. He finally tracked down Windom for third in the last handful of laps.
Up front, though, Bell was having no issues and he won by .783 seconds in the No. 71 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“Confidence is everything, and mine is back up after it was down a little during Midget Week when we flipped at Putnamville. When we first got going, Daum was really good on the bottom. That kinda showed me where the bottom was good enough to keep up and be faster than a guy on the top. I was able to work that under him enough until I could get the lead,” Bell said.
Thorson kept up his strong run of races with another podium finish, this time as the runner-up in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 67 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I was trying my hardest to beat Christopher to the front. Before that last restart, I felt like I was catching him and could maybe throw a slider on him. I was just hanging in there when Windom was throwing sliders on us for third, but when Bell got the lead it kind of showed the way to get to second,” Thorson said.
Abreu’s recovery has him taking a 96-point lead into three Kansas races later this month with the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“Eventful night, that’s for sure. You’re gonna have nights like this, and luckily we made the best of it. I biked in the heat and almost saved it, but that made us run the B Main. I jumped the cushion a couple times early and lost a lot of ground. Every spot counts, so I was trying to get as many as I could late in the race. We took what looked like it might be a tenth-place run and ended up third,” Abreu said.
Windom held on for fourth with Zach Daum fifth.