Driver Analysis: 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Christopher Bell

The 2017 season could not have been any better for the eventual champion Christopher Bell. Early on in the year he was up front and challenging for wins every week. With a strong Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, it was not surprising to see him challenge for victories week in and week out.

Bell got his win early in the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the second race of the year. He collected poles at Kansas and Charlotte, finishing fourth and third, respectively, in those two races. However, a week later at Dover, Bell was collected in an unfortunate crash leaving him with a 25th place finish at the end of the day.

The following week at Fort Worth, Bell put that disappointing finish behind him and won by mere inches over Chase Briscoe. It was his second win of the season. If he did not feel comfortable with just that one win at Atlanta, Bell sure felt comfortable now, knowing that he would be racing for the championship if the Playoffs went well. It was a great victory for him and the No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra entry.

“Well, it’s huge. We’ve been so fast throughout the entire year and all of our partners have done such a great job bringing really fast cars,” Bell said. “Rowdy Manufacturing chassis and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing Engines, they just work so hard to bring really fast Tundras to the race track and I’m the lucky one who gets to drive them.”

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After the wild finish at Texas, Gateway and Iowa saw him finish sixth and fifth. A week later, Bell was back to his winning ways at Kentucky even though he spun out early in the race. The victory was just as good a feeling for his team, after winning the week before at Texas.

“This is pretty special, man,” Bell said. “This is an extremely tough race for me. We had our ups and downs there and through practice yesterday, just kind of – practice didn’t really go smooth. We had such a good Toyota Tundra that I knew, I knew if the right circumstances came up we could do it and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) did a great job on top of the pit box just getting me track position after I made a mistake there and spun out. Just really glad to be here.”

Bell continued his winning ways once again at Pocono. With already having four wins early in the season, he was the regular season champion in the Truck Series after the race was over at Chicago. At that point in the season, 2017 was already being great to him and the No. 4 Toyota Tundra team.

“It’s huge,” he said, “Thankfully, this year we were able to accumulate some points to have a little bit of a cushion going into the Playoffs and just really thankful to be here at Kyle Busch Motorsports driving this No. 4 SiriusXM Tundra and not just SiriusXM, but all of our partners at JBL, TRD, Toyota and everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. There is a whole group there that builds these Tundras and they do an excellent job and it really shows week in and week out.”

Just like in early season form at Atlanta, Bell started out the Playoffs with a bang by winning at Loudon. It was his fifth win of the season and it advanced him on to the Round of 6.

“It was really big. To be able to win the first race and now we can be more aggressive at Vegas and especially Talladega and try and win the race compared to how I did it last year and just kind of had to take my fifth through eighth place finishes and move on,” Bell said. “It’s just a credit to Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and Kyle (Busch, owner) and everyone on this group – this team that I’ve got, man.”

With that win at Loudon, Bell continued to be consistent throughout the Playoffs. His worst finish in the championship hunt was eighth which occurred at Martinsville and Phoenix. Otherwise, he finished second at tracks such as Las Vegas, Talladega and a third at Fort Worth. During those races, Bell collected two poles at Talladega and Phoenix. By having such a strong season, he ultimately qualified for the Championship 4 for the second consecutive year.

Bell would be competing against tough challengers like 2016 champion Johnny Sauter, two-time champion Matt Crafton and Canada winner Austin Cindric. He knew it would not come easy for him and that he would have to bring the best of the best.

“I think everyone on this No. 4 JBL team is as prepared as we can be,” Bell said. “Overall, if you look back on the season, I think we’ve shown the most speed in the Truck Series, and week in and week out we’ve been the best team. I’ve always enjoyed Homestead and Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) has been really fast there the last few years. If we can just go out and focus on what has gotten us to this point, I think we should be in good shape. Regardless of the outcome, it’s been an amazing season.”

The day finally came, the race the Kyle Busch Motorsports No.4 team had been waiting for all season, the Championship 4 race at Homestead. Bell was the worst of the four Playoff drivers when it came to qualifying, as he would qualify 13th leaving him with a challenge to get up to the front fast.

When Stage 1 began, he worked his way up to first and won the first stage. Bell would stay there in Stage 2, but fell one spot short and finished second when Ben Rhodes ended up winning the stage. With 30 laps to go, he began to drive away from Sauter. Bell would eventually stay in the second position and win the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship, finishing just one spot ahead of Sauter.

It was the first ever championship in NASCAR for Christopher Bell and the second Truck Series driver championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports. This was a great feeling for the No. 4 driver who came out of Norman, Oklahoma. It was a moment that Bell will remember forever.

“A dream come true just doesn’t even describe it,” Bell said.  “For me to be at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) as long as I have and to go out a champion — that is something I’m really proud of. Really cool that we have our partners JBL here on the championship stage with us. They’ve been with me since day one of my Truck career and I’m really glad to have them here with us. Between JBL, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), SiriusXM, DC Solar, everyone at KBM, man – these trucks are so good and they pay so much attention to all the detail into that goes into these things and that’s what makes these Tundras so fast. I’m just speechless.”

Winning the championship was very emotional for the 23-year-old.

“There are no words to describe what this means to me,” he said. “To be able to be here and to finish out my career at Kyle Busch Motorsports with the championship is something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life and, man, to be able to do it with JBL on the truck – they’ve been with me since day one and the start of my career. They were with me through last year and we had a struggle point there through the beginning and middle parts of last year and they stuck with me and believed in me and we were able to persevere and come away a champion a year later.”

After the final checkered flag of the season, Bell earned five wins, 15 top fives and 21 top 10 finishes with an average start of 4.9 and an average finish of 5.7. He also had two DNF’s and led 875 laps.

In 2018, Christopher Bell will not return to the Truck Series as he will be joining Joe Gibbs Racing driving the No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry.

Bell can be found on social media pages. You can follow him on Twitter at @CBellRacing and on Instagram @CBellRacing.

 

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