CONCORD, N.C. – Leave it to Christopher Bell to show up at the front when there’s a paycheck on the line and a big stage for winged sprint cars to shine on.
In a nationally-televised event on FOX Sports 1, Bell wheeled his No. 21 CB Industries mount to a $1,000 victory Wednesday night during the third round of the World of Outlaws iRacing Invitational at the virtual Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Bell made his move for the win look as thrilling on the simulator as he often does in real life, trading slide jobs with Kevin Swindell following a lap 20 restart before wresting the lead away for good on the 22nd of 35 laps at the four-tenths-mile Charlotte oval.
That pass came moments before David Gravel got tagged by Austin McCarl back in the pack, sending Gravel upside down and drawing the last of four yellow flags in the feature.
There was no stopping Bell, however.
He fired off on the race’s last restart with nine to go and never looked back, opening up a 2.352-second margin over Swindell by the time the checkered flag waved to end the race.
For a driver who has raced on stages all the way up to the NASCAR Cup Series level, even Bell realized the magnitude of his win and what the night meant for short-track racing as a whole.
“That was fun, that’s for sure,” Bell said after his win. “I had the honor of working with iRacing to help get these things going a little bit when they first released the dirt, so it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of that. This was a special night, with everything that went into it.
“It’s been really cool to see the evolution of iRacing as a whole,” Bell continued. “I’ve been on this thing for so long now that it was a game and a lot of fun for my friends and I to get on here to start, and now it’s our job … at least right now, with the NASCAR stuff on Sundays and now with the Outlaws coming onboard as well. It’s just cool to see iRacing capitalizing on this moment of everyone being at home and needing something to do.
“It’s been really fun to race against competitive drivers and I hope we can do it again some more.”
While Bell may have made his victory look easy down the home stretch, he was quick to note just how technical the virtual Dirt Track as Charlotte was in the closing laps.
“The 900 horsepower (engines) … when the track gets slick, these cars want to start wallowing on you going down the straightaways, then when you get to the cushion in the corners it gets rough. So it’s about being smooth and keeping it as straight as you can,” Bell explained. “I’m not sure I really got over half or three-quarters throttle during those last couple of laps, but it was about keeping it smooth and luckily, we did that tonight.”
Swindell, who started seventh but found a lane on the bottom that gave him the lead by the end of lap one, led the field until Bell made what ended up being the winning move.
He hung onto the runner-up spot from there, finishing ahead of Shark Racing’s Logan Schuchart, late model invader Trent Ivey and Max McLaughlin, who was filling in for Sheldon Haudenschild behind the wheel of the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing No. 17.
Carson Macedo, Kyle Larson, Brian Brown, Robbie Kendall and Ryan Bernal completed the top 10.
Of note, NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps was 12th and Gravel, the reigning Knoxville Nationals winner, ended up 14th after his issues in the second half of the event.
NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Busch was the night’s special guest, competing in both the sprint car and late model mains. He ended up 16th, five laps down, in the sprint feature.
Polesitter Rico Abreu fell back on the initial start and never led a lap. He was later collected in a crash that knocked him out of the race and finished last in the 20-car field.
Ivey, from Union, S.C., went on to win the 50-lap late model invitational.
Both of Wednesday night’s races were lined up according to an algorithm of average iRacing lap times, adjusted for track conditions, followed by a pill draw for the inversion.
1. 21-Christopher Bell , 2. 39-Kevin Swindell , 3. 1s-Logan Schuchart , 4. 88-Trent Ivey , 5. 17-Max McLaughlin , 2-Carson Macedo , 7. 57-Kyle Larson , 8. 21b-Brian Brown , 9. 55-Robbie Kendall , 10. 87b-Ryan Bernal , 11. 7bc-Tyler Courtney , 12. 28-Ron Capps , 13. 2c-Wayne Johnson , 14. 41-David Gravel , 15. 87-Aaron Reutzel , 16. 51-Kyle Busch , 17. 49-Brad Sweet , 18. 2m-Kerry Madsen , 19. 17a-Austin McCarl , 20. 24-Rico Abreu .
Lead Changes: Two among three drivers.
Lap Leaders: Rico Abreu Grid, Kevin Swindell 1-21, Christopher Bell 22-35.
Laps Led: Kevin Swindell 21, Christopher Bell 14.
Hard Charger: 17-Max McLaughlin (+9)
Caution Flags: Four for 13 laps
Margin of Victory: 2.352 seconds
Average Speed: 64.742 mph