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“Butt Chewings,” Experience Lead Christopher Bell to Championship

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When Christopher Bell started in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, it was not smooth. The Oklahoma driver endured a rough beginning to his rookie campaign, placing outside of the top-15 in his first three starts, including a wild ride at Daytona International Speedway.

You would never know that now watching him celebrate being crowned the 2017 series champion on Friday night following the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The opportunity for success to happen was there from the beginning, though. Although it was a rough beginning to his rookie campaign in 2016 with mistakes and tough defeats, he was fast and won early, as the ninth race of the season at Gateway Motorsports Park marked his second career series victory.

Bell’s rough around the edges, all-or-nothing approach reminded many of his boss Kyle Busch, with discussion merely surrounding if they could put tame everything and put the pieces together, it would work out. Leaning on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion for advice, a turnaround began through the summer with consistency being found.

“He’s (Kyle Busch) the best boss you can have,” Bell praised. “I mean, how cool is it that Kyle Busch is your boss? It’s something that I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to be here and whenever I first went to Kyle Busch Motorsports, I remember I was so star struck by him whenever I was driving his late models, and to win a championship for him – I’m just speechless.”

Busch noted the key for Bell was learning to be fast and tight, and sometimes the theory “loose is fast” does not apply, while focusing on cleaning up some of his race technique. 

“I think that was a little bit of the learning experience for him in knowing how fast and how good you could be,” Busch added. “Being able to have a bit of a tug on the steering wheel is important. Learning traffic was one of the biggest things. I think they both (Christopher and Erik Jones) had to learn traffic over the course of the time they’ve been with us, and trucks are one of the most difficult series to race aero-dependently because they punch such a big hole. But, they all have their different traits, they all grow some of their traits from me after the butt chewings that they get Monday mornings from me. But all in all, they continue to grow and evolve with every race that they do.” 

Continuing to get better allowed him to qualify for the playoffs in 2016, and was one of the Championship 4 entering Homestead-Miami Speedway, ultimately finishing eighth in the event and losing out to Johnny Sauter. They say you have to lose a title to win one, and Bell praised that experience in helping lead to the success he endured this year.

Entering 2017, a combination of speed and lessons learned from the previous season. It was a recipe for success as he only placed outside of the top-10 twice all year long, scoring five wins and 15 top-fives from Daytona in February to Homestead-Miami in November. 

“To be able to see Christopher (Bell) mature and grow and to get into the role that he’s in this year from where he was last year, it just goes to show you that these guys develop and we do a good job of developing these guys,” Busch said.

With the crown in hand, Bell will move up to the XFINITY Series in 2018, ready for a full season with Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s already proved he can get the job done, scoring his first career victory at Kentucky Speedway earlier this year. However, even with his success, he admits he can still learn more, noting the learning process isn’t complete yet.

“The pavement deal is very difficult – especially coming here to a place like Homestead where every lap, your car or truck does something different,” he said. “But that’s just a product of me running on dirt for 17 years now, and only on the pavement for four years with maybe a 100 races total under my belt. But I’m gaining confidence as I go, but that’s going to take a lot of time.”  

Based on his growth so far, it would be no surprise if he was celebrating another championship next year at Homestead-Miami Speedway once again. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.