HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Christopher Bell took his first step towards a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship by winning the opening stage of Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Bell used a huge slide job in turn two to pass polesitter and stage-long leader Chase Briscoe with seven laps to go before the first stage break, deftly working traffic and pulling out to a nearly-four second lead by the time the green-checkered flag flew over the field.
Though Bell didn’t earn any stage points for his performance (due to being a championship-eligible driver), the performance marked his 11th stage win of the season and sixth of the playoffs.
“This mile-and-a-half is a lot different than any other we go to,” said Bell. “I guess we didn’t bring the right package to qualify, but it’s obviously racing really well right now and I’m really happy with it. Hopefully we can keep this going and win a championship with it at the end of the night.”
Briscoe led the field to green from the pole for Brad Keselowski Racing, but it was title contender Matt Crafton who was the early star of the show.
Crafton started eighth but advanced five positions on the opening lap, picking his way to second in less than three miles and quickly putting heat on Briscoe for the race lead.
However, Briscoe hung tough and started to pull back away at the lap 10 benchmark, opening up a second over Crafton before Grant Enfinger caught and surpassed his ThorSport Racing teammate to take over the runner-up spot.
Christopher Bell finally worked his way past Crafton on the 18th round to assume command in the title fight, all while Briscoe continued to lead the race at the head of the field.
But Bell wasn’t done making moves, passing Enfinger for second on lap 22 and chopping Briscoe’s lead into shreds before finally making the pass 12 circuits later and driving off into the distance.
Briscoe crossed the line in second, ahead of Grant Enfinger, Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex.
The remaining three title contenders — Austin Cindric, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter — finished sixth through eighth in the stage, followed by Justin Haley and Timothy Peters among the points-scoring drivers in the top-10.
Toyota clinched the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series manufacturer’s championship when the green flag dropped Friday night, the marque’s fifth in a row and 10th overall in the Truck Series, dating back to 2006.
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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