Bell takes Loudon Truck win after late-race battle with Ryan Truex

Christopher Bell picked up max points in the opening race of the Camping World Truex Series playoffs.

Bell takes Loudon Truck win after late-race battle with Ryan Truex
Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Ryan Truex, Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota
Ryan Truex, Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota

Bell won both stages and picked up his seventh-career truck victory — and his fifth of the season — on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the UNOH 175.

“It’s a dream come true to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports," Bell said. "These guys do such a good job preparing this SiriusXM Tundra. Just can’t thank all of our partners at JBL, TRD, Toyota, everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports - thank you guys for building such fast trucks. It’s an honor to drive them.”

After leading a race-high 73 laps, Bell held a 1.248-second advantage over Ryan Truex at the line.

“I did everything I could to hold him off,” said Truex, who lost the lead after 28 laps at the point. “I just didn’t have the grip he had.”

Todd Gilliland finished third followed by Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Austin Cindric, Johnny Sauter and Kaz Grala. Other Playoff notables — Chase Briscoe and John Hunter Nemechek — finished 11th and 20th, respectively.

“Hope that’s a start to the next championship run,” said No. 4 truck crew chief Rudy Fugle.

Bell's victory provides an automatic pass to the next round in the playoffs. The No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team extended its advantage to 40 points in the standings over Sauter, who soldiered through the race despite damage to his truck in Stage 2. Crafton is third, one point behind Sauter.

“It’s huge to know that we can be aggressive at Vegas and Talladega and go for more wins,” Bell added.

Rhodes was the first truck off of pit road following the second round of pit stops for the lead-lap drivers. Rhodes, Cindric and Haley elected to take two tires during service. Ryan Truex, fourth, was the first truck on four tires followed by Grala, Bell, Crafton, Gilliland, Friesen, Enfinger, Hill, Coughlin, Sauter, Chase Briscoe and Austin Wayne Self.

Rhodes held the point after the Lap 119 restart. Cindric remained second followed by Truex and Haley. Bell moved up to fourth by Lap 120 with Gilliland fifth. Friesen, Grala, Haley, Crafton and Sauter rounded out the top 10. Bell passed Cindric for third. Gilliland followed as Cindric dropped to fifth.

Friesen passed Cindric for fifth on Lap 124. Grala ran seventh with Haley, Crafton and Sauter in tow.

Cindric spun sideways coming out of Turn 4 — with an assist from Grala — to trigger the fifth caution on Lap 126. Rhodes held a second lead over Truex. Bell ran fourth followed by Gilliland, Friesen, Grala, Haley, Crafton, Enfinger and Sauter.

The race returned to green on Lap 132 with Rhodes at the point followed by Truex, Bell, Gilliland, Friesen, Grala, Haley, Enfinger, Sauter, Cindric and Crafton. Truex took the lead on the restart with Bell in second. Rhodes dropped to third followed by Gilliland, Friesen, Enfinger, Crafton, Cindric, Haley and Sauter. Coming through Turn 4 on Lap 135, Rhodes became loose and dropped to eighth.

Bell caught Truex’s bumper on Lap 136. Gilliland laid back in third, a second behind Bell.

With 35 laps remaining, Truex held a truck-length advantage over Bell followed by Gilliland, Enfinger, Friesen, Crafton, Grala, Rhodes, Cindric and Sauter. Rhodes passed Grala for seventh on Lap 143. Truex’s lead was .293-seconds over Bell with 30 laps to go. Gilliland remained third followed by Enfinger, Friesen, Crafton, Rhodes, Cindric, Grala and Sauter.

Truex maintained a .285-second lead over Bell with 20 laps remaining. Gilliland ran third followed by Enfinger, Friesen, Crafton, Rhodes, Cindric, Grala and Sauter. Chase Briscoe held onto 12th.

Bell looked to the inside of Truex in Turn 4 on Lap 158. He completed the pass on the backstretch on the next circuit.

“He was doing a really good job of watching his mirror,” Bell said of Truex. “I knew it was tough to pass all day but our truck had been good and we were able to do it — until we got to him. I kept trying to work down, and he kept blocking my air down and down and down. I got one run where he drove up in (turns) one and two and I got under him in 3.”

With 15 laps to go, Bell held a half-second lead over Truex. Sauter passed Grala for ninth with 10 to go.

Following inspection, NASCAR discovered improper air intake modifications on the No. 51 Pedigree Toyota piloted by third-place finisher Todd Gilliland. It was his first top-five finish in the Camping World Truck Series. There were no trucks taken back to the R&D Center. Any penalties will be issued later next week.

The No. 51 KBM truck is currently second in the owner standings, 38 points behind the No. 4 KBM truck piloted by Christopher Bell.

Stage 2

Christopher Bell picked up his seventh stage win in the second segment at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Bell held nearly a three-second lead over Matt Crafton. Ryan Truex was third followed by Grant Engfinger, Kaz Grala, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland, Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter. The Team Penske trucks of Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe ran 13th and 14th, respectively, the last two drivers on the lead lap.

On Lap 58, Bell brought the trucks to pit road. Crafton was the first driver out of the pits followed by Grala, who took two tires during the stop. Todd Gilliland also took two tires, but was penalized for running over equipment and had to drop to 15th. Bell was third — with four tires — followed by Gragson, Truex, Rhodes, Sauter, Cindric, Friesen, Austin Hill, Justin Haley, Grant Enfinger, Chase Briscoe, Cody Coughlin and Gilliland.

Crafton led the field to the Stage 2 restart on Lap 63. Bell passed Grala for second on the backstretch on Lap 64. Coming into Turn 4, Gragson lost control of his truck, was bumped by Rhodes and hit Sauter, who went on the apron trying to avoid the No. 18 truck. Sauter received extensive damage to the right-side of the No. 21 truck, but continued on.

Gragson came straight onto pit road. Crafton retained the lead followed by Bell, Grala, Sauter, Rhodes, Truex, Cindric, Enfinger, Friesen and Haley.

Gragson and Briscoe pitted on Lap 66. The race returned to green on Lap 69. Sauter pushed Crafton ahead of Bell on the restart. Grala maintained third followed Sauter and Truex.

Crafton extended his lead to .411-seconds on Lap 70 over Bell. Gala, Truex, Sauter, Enfinger, Rhodes, Haley, Friesen and Hill rounded out the top 10.

NASCAR called the third caution on Lap 72 for debris — the caution could not have come at a better time for Sauter, who dropped to sixth from the previous damage on the last caution.

“It’s not handling like it was, I can tell you that,” Sauter said.

Gragson returned to pit road for additional service. He held onto 16th, the last truck on the lead lap.

The race returned to green on Lap 76 with Crafton and Bell out front followed by Grala, Truex and Enfinger. Bell blasted to the front on the restart. Crafton maintained second as Enfinger took Grala and Truex three-wide and settled into fourth.

After 80 laps, Bell’s advantage was .927-seconds over Crafton. Truex ran third followed by Enfinger, Grala, Sauter, Friesen, Rhodes, Haley and Coughlin. Nemechek returned to the track after the team repaired the rear gear. He was 23rd, 36-laps off the pace.

"Everything happens for a reason,” Nemechek told his crew chief Gere Kinnon.

Crafton cut Bell’s lead to .880-seconds with 20 laps remaining in the stage. Truex remained third followed by Enfinger, Grala, Friesen, Rhodes, Sauter, Haley and Gilliland. Haley passed Sauter for eighth on Lap 94. Bell’s truck came to life and he extended his advantage over Crafton by 1.5-seconds.

With 10 laps to decide the stage, Bell’s lead over Crafton increased to 1.703-seconds. Truex, Enfinger, Grala, Friesen, Rhodes, Haley, Gilliland and Sauter completed the top 10.

By Lap 105, Bell’s lead was 2.626-seconds over Crafton with 14 trucks remaining on the lead lap. Bell crossed the start-finish line while Crafton was still coming out of Turn 4 with one lap to decide the stage.

Stage 1

Christopher Bell picked up his sixth stage win of the season by an 1.252-second margin over Ben Rhodes. Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Ryan Truex, Todd Gilliland, Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen rounded out the top 10 after the first 55-lap segment.

“It’s really, really good, I’m able to drive down the hill and leave the corner,” Bell said and added it was hard to pass.

Playoff drivers Kaz Grala and Chase Briscoe ran 11th and 13th, respectively. John Hunter Nemechek was behind the wall with transmission issues and scored 23rd.

Noah Gragson led the field to green for the UNOH 175 and Bell quickly fell in line. After the first two laps, Gragson held a .461-second lead over Bell. Rhodes ran third followed by Cindric and Sauter. Gilliland, Enfinger, Crafton, Friesen and Truex completed the top 10 after five laps.

Gragson lapped Camden Murphy after eight laps. The top five remained the same while Truex passed Friesen for ninth. Bell cut Gragson’s advantage to .362-seconds after 10 laps. John Hunter Nemechek passed Friesen for 10th.

Bell looked to the inside of Gragson for the first time in Turn 4 on Lap 14, but the polesitter held the point with Rhodes, Cindric and Sauter in tow. Crafton ran sixth followed by Gilliland, Truex, Engineer and Nemechek.

Twenty laps in, Crafton caught Sauter and the veterans closed in on Cindric.

Bell came inside of Gragson at the start-finish line on Lap 25 for the lead. Grayson took back the lead on the next lap. As Sauter and Crafton battled each other for fifth, Gilliland caught the veterans.

Coming to Lap 30, Bell was still dogging Gragson, but he refused to give up the lead. Rhodes ran 1.6-seconds behind the leader followed by Cindric and Sauter.

John Hunter Nemechek was the first driver in the playoffs to pit — on Lap 32 — with a vibration. He was running 10th at the time. Nemechek dropped to 19th.

Working Lap 40, Bell was on Gragson’s bumper as the No. 18 truck approached lapped truck of Josh Reaume. Bell finally moved around his teammate on Lap 42, coming through Turn 4. Rhodes remained third followed by Cindric, Sauter, Crafton, Truex, Gilliland, Enfinger and Friesen.

On Lap 45, Nemechek, who was running 19th, took his truck to the garage. Rhodes caught Gragson on Lap 52 and made the pass for second. Cindric remained fourth followed by Sauter, Crafton, Truex, Gillilnad, Enfinger and Friesen.

1 18 united_states Noah Gragson  Toyota 28.896   131.811
2 4 united_states Christopher Bell  Toyota 28.905 0.009 131.770
3 21 united_states Johnny Sauter  Chevrolet 29.001 0.105 131.333
4 27 united_states Ben Rhodes  Toyota 29.050 0.154 131.112
5 51 united_states Todd Gilliland  Toyota 29.077 0.181 130.990
6 19 united_states Austin Cindric  Ford 29.112 0.216 130.833
7 16 united_states Ryan Truex  Toyota 29.115 0.219 130.819
8 98 united_states Grant Enfinger  Toyota 29.119 0.223 130.801
9 29 united_states Chase Briscoe  Ford 29.174 0.278 130.555
10 88 united_states Matt Crafton  Toyota 29.230 0.334 130.304
11 52 united_states Stewart Friesen  Chevrolet 29.255 0.359 130.193
12 33 united_states Kaz Grala  Chevrolet 29.278 0.382 130.091
13 24 united_states Justin Haley  Chevrolet 29.279 0.383 130.086
14 8 united_states John Hunter Nemechek  Chevrolet 29.283 0.387 130.069
15 02 united_states Austin Hill  Ford 29.445 0.549 129.353
16 45 united_states T.J. Bell  Chevrolet 29.990 1.094 127.002
17 15 united_states Gray Gaulding  Chevrolet 30.297 1.401 125.715
18 87 united_states Joe Nemechek  Chevrolet 30.419 1.523 125.211
19 44 united_states Austin Wayne Self  Chevrolet 30.484 1.588 124.944
20 83 united_states Emerlingб Patrick  Chevrolet 30.488 1.592 124.928
21 50 united_states Josh Reaume  Chevrolet 30.748 1.852 123.871
22 49 united_states Wendell Chavous  Chevrolet 31.258 2.362 121.850
23 13 united_states Cody Coughlin  Toyota 0.000   0.000
24 1 united_states Jordan Anderson  Chevrolet 31.212 2.316 122.030
25 0 united_states Ray Ciccarelli  Chevrolet 32.126 3.230 118.558
26 63 united_states Camden Murphy  Chevrolet 32.253 3.357 118.091
27 6 united_states Norm Benning  Chevrolet 32.598 3.702 116.842
28 57 united_states Mike Senica  Chevrolet 37.796 8.900 100.773
29 10 united_states Jennifer Jo Cobb  Chevrolet 0.000   0.000


Five things to watch in NASCAR Truck playoff opener at NHMS

Previous article

Five things to watch in NASCAR Truck playoff opener at NHMS

Next article

Fresh off Late Model win, Timothy Peters returns to Truck competition

Fresh off Late Model win, Timothy Peters returns to Truck competition
Load comments