Top-five finishes in each of the last two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events have helped Christopher Bell catapult from 22nd in the championship standings leaving Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to ninth entering Friday's N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Running at the front of the field hasn't been a problem for the 21-year-old driver this year, but finishing there proved to be difficult in the early part of the season. The talented wheelman's average running position of 8.942 ranks second to two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton this season and he also has the third-highest driver rating among series regulars (93.7). Bell put himself in a position to win late in the race at both Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway and was on pace for a top-10 finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, but incidents late in all three races left him with disappointing results and an average finish of 20.3 after the first three events.
While it surely wasn't easy on the young driver to have to wait five weeks to get back behind the wheel of his No. 4 Tundra, it may have been just what the doctor ordered. Two weeks ago, Bell made his first career start at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, where he came from the fifth starting position to lead five laps and bring home what, at the time, was a season-best fourth-place finish. Last week he upped that performance in his Dover (Del.) International Speedway debut, scratching and clawing from his ninth starting position to finish third and earn the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award.
Now the Oklahoma native tackles Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the first time Friday night in the N.C. Education Lottery 200. Bell will surely get an education on how to get around the 1.5-mile quad-oval from team owner Kyle Busch, who is driving the team's fourth entry in the 134-lap event. Busch has produced a track-record six victories in Truck Series action at Charlotte, including four victories in four starts since Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) inaugural season in 2010.
With finishes of fourth and third in the last two events Bell is not only moving in the right direction towards collecting his first win of the season, but heading in an upward path in the Truck Series championship standings. With Busch in the field this week, getting the win will be more of a challenge, but the jackpot at the end would be much more rewarding.