Kyle Busch Motorsports Teammates Crash Battling for Victory
After leading a combined 145 of 150 laps in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway, it appeared as though Kyle Busch Motorsports was destined for one of their trucks to visit victory lane. Then contact happened to ruin those chances.
Following a late-race restart with 10 laps to go following back-to-back red flags, teammates Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson battled for the lead after having spent much of the night one-two. As the pair banged off of each other a little, the battle intensified.
With five laps to go off of turn three, Gragson’s No. 18 Toyota Tundra got loose underneath Bell and came around, tagging Bell as he did, which forced Bell’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra up into the outside wall. Gragson was then hit by Justin Haley, before making contact with the inside wall.
Gragson’s night was over as he finished 15th, while Bell soldered on to cross the checkered flag in eighth following a trip down pit lane.
“It was intense, and we were both doing everything we could to go for the win,” Bell said. “It’s a big advantage to be on the outside because you have all the side force and whenever you crowd him like that you take all the air off the side of his truck. I knew that I was playing with fire there and that there was a good possibility that I was going to get us both in trouble. He (Noah Gragson) was doing a really good job down there of hanging onto it and keeping it up – we were just racing hard, and it didn’t work out.”
Despite the incident, Bell locked himself into the final round of the championship next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway after his stage 1 victory. He states this wreck doesn’t affect his confidence, noting “we have our baby back at the shop.”
The second-year driver has been impressive so far throughout the playoffs, scoring no finishes outside of the top-eight, including a win and four top-fives in six events.
However, it has not been perfect. Bell was set to contend for the victory at Martinsville, but contact with Matt Crafton sent him to the back, and he was only able to rebound back to eighth. Now entering Homestead, he has had a pair of races with these effects, partnered with a third at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bell has proven capable of winning the championship and enters as a favorite, currently leading the points standings by three over Johnny Sauter. However, he cannot afford another incident like the past couple of weeks or Sauter is bound to pounce, as he has with winning the previous two races.
Though if he can put together a solid event, expect him to be strong as Kyle Busch Motorsports has won three of the last four Ford EcoBoost 200s at the 1.5-mile oval.
“It sucks to not win again, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Bell said. “Homestead is a totally different race track from this. What we did here today relates nothing to next weekend. From starting midnight tonight, we’ll focus on the XFINITY race tomorrow and from there turn our focus to Homestead. Nothing that happened here will have anything to do with Homestead. They’re nothing alike, and Homestead is next week, a different race track.”
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