SPARTA, Ky. — Christopher Bell waited out the rain and then rallied back from an early-race spin to take the checkered flag in Thursday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
After persistent, pesky showers delayed the start of the race by nearly three hours, Bell started on the front row but fell to the tail of the field due to a lap 28 spin that had him working overtime to get back to the front.
He managed to claw his way to sixth by the second stage break at lap 70 and then stayed out as many of the leaders came to pit road, lining up second for the restart alongside teammate Myatt Snider.
Bell quickly surged around the outside when the green flag came out on lap 83, but was held up by a slew of lap traffic 10 circuits later and had to surrender the lead to a charging John Hunter Nemechek, who was seeking his third win in a row.
But a caution on lap 107, when Snider spun off turn four, sent the leaders to pit road for the final time and saw Nemechek and Bell line up on the front row for what became the race-deciding restart.
The green flag flew with 37 laps left, and while it wasn’t even a lap before Ryan Truex and Kaz Grala crashed to bring the caution out again, it was enough for Bell to take the lead for good.
Winning the race wasn’t easy though, as Bell had to fend off a slew of charges from MDM Motorsports’ Brandon Jones in the closing laps to secure his series-leading third trophy of the year.
“This is pretty special,” said Bell, who led a race-high 54 laps. “This was an extremely tough race for me. We had our ups-and-downs there and through practice yesterday, it just really didn’t go smooth. We had such a really good Toyota Tundra that I knew if the right circumstances came up, we could do it.”
“Rudy did a great job on top of the pit box just getting me track position after I made a mistake there and spun out. I’m just really glad to be here and really thankful for all the guys at TRD and everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. They build such fast Tundras; it’s a pleasure to drive them. Our Joe Gibbs engines are flawless and I think that showed today.”
Jones didn’t quite have enough to get to Bell’s quarter panel and fight for the win, but he did still notch a career-best Truck Series finish for both he and MDM.
“I was trying everything I knew to do in there, pretty much,” Jones admitted. “We had a shot to win, I felt like, and there was just so many things I was trying to do … I was trying to keep air on the fender and not follow his runs down the hill. I know he was mirror-driving; he had to, the way he was tow-pulling back up on us.”
“Just trying to play mind games with him and really try to trick him out some, but he had a hot rod as well tonight. It was an evenly-matched deal. I just needed to be out front, I think, to be able to do it. I think we would’ve pulled away just like they did (if I had been).”
Justin Haley and Austin Cindric also notched career-best marks in third and fourth, respectively, with Stage 2 winner Noah Gragson completing the top five and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kyle Busch finishing sixth.
Stage 1 winner Ben Rhodes was eliminated in a crash on lap 42, after spinning out following the resumption for the second segment and being hit hard by ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger.
Rhodes and Enfinger were credited with 27th and 28th in the final rundown.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…