BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Chris Bell finished less than a car length over Nick Knepper to win his first feature in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series and Joe B. Miller drove to victory in the POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series on Friday at Belle-Clair Speedway.
Knepper drove deep on the inside into turn three to briefly put the nose on his Essingler-powered Spike ahead, but Bell turned his Toyota-powered Bullet underneath in turn four and beat him to the checkered flag on the one-fifth mile track.
“He surprised me,” Bell said. “I didn’t know he was that close. I was lucky to see him early enough and take the cushion and drive across him.”
Bell’s victory for Keith Kunz Motorsports came in his 20th POWRi start. It was his first in a Midget in any series.
“It was a long time coming,” the 18-year-old from Norman, Okla., said. “Keith and the team gave me an awesome car and I’m definitely really fortunate to be driving for him. When you drive for Keith, you have the best of the best.”
Bell was hired in January for the Toyota-backed No. 71 car, one of the best seats in
Midget racing. He had driven in 11 races in the POWRi series a year ago before accepting an offer to race winged Sprint cars in the second half of the season.
“We watched him run in the POWRi stuff and there something about him we liked,” Kumz said.
Bell, on the inside, and Knepper started on the front row for the 30-lap feature. Knepper jumped into the lead and held it through three restarts. On the 14th lap, Bell passed him for the lead in turn four, sliding around him and then getting the power down to narrowly go ahead.