ABBOTTSTOWN, Pa. – For the first time since last December, Christopher Bell raced in a winged sprint car on Monday night in round four of Pennsylvania Speedweek at Lincoln Speedway.
If there was rust, it wasn’t visible – at least not in the 30-lap main event – as Bell started fourth and finished third, 2.688 seconds behind winner Rico Abreu amidst a fierce pool of competitors. The 25-year-old driver with NASCAR Cup Series commitments to Leavine Family Racing plans to also race in rounds five and six of Pennsylvania Speedweek at Grandview Speedway on Tuesday and Port Royal Speedway on Wednesday.
“I’m really happy,” Bell said. “Coming here and running third is a great way to start the week. I just wanted to come here and knock the rust off.”
Before Monday, Bell last ran in a winged sprint car Dec. 1 when he finished second in a 360 at Arizona Speedway. His last dirt race also happened to be runner-up in the Chili Bowl Nationals on Jan. 18, where Kyle Larson denied him of what would have been four straight wins of the prestigious event.
As crazy as it may sound, Bell just wanted to make the show Monday night, racing against a stiff field of 42 drivers headlined by Larson, Abreu, Aaron Reutzel, Sammy Swindell, Brent Marks, Brock Zearfoss, Cory Eliason, Robert Ballou, Danny Dietrich and the rest of the Pennsylvania Posse.
“Honestly, we just wanted to make the race,” Bell said. “We knew it was going to be tough. It’s a very difficult race track, very difficult field of cars to race against. I’m really happy with third.”
Bell not only qualified for the main event, but he won his heat race by 2.481 seconds over Zearfoss and Abreu, the eventual winner, and came one lucky pill draw away from possibly contending for a win out of the box. Since that last start on dirt at the Chili Bowl Nationals more than five months ago, Bell has devoted his racing talents to his NASCAR Cup Series rookie campaign.
Through 15 races he is 25th in the series standings, 89 points behind Erik Jones for a playoff spot. He also has one top five and four top 10s, with the top-five coming on Saturday at Pocono Raceway, which is just a few hours north of where Bell raced Monday. Though the end of the night shows a third-place result, it didn’t come particularly easy.
“It’s hard, man,” Bell said. “Sprint cars are so fast. And I haven’t been behind the wheel in a long time. It’s just tough.”
Outside of this three-race swing, Bell says he doesn’t have any other sprint car races planned. He’ll finish the week in Pennsylvania at Grandview, a third-mile bullring Bell won at last year, and Port Royal Speedway, a half-mile configuration that keeps you on edge with its speed and multi-groove racing. Bell raced Port Royal once last October with the World of Outlaws, placing fifth in his heat and eighth in the B-Main, failing to make the feature.
“Grandview is a great race track for me,” Bell said. “Port Royal, we sucked there when we went in October but hopefully we can improve on that.”
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