Christopher Bell Conquers Lou Blaney Memorial

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Christopher Bell won Saturday night's Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway as well as Thursday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. (Julia Johnson photo)

HARTFORD, Ohio — Christopher Bell captured the ninth annual Lou Blaney Memorial on Saturday evening at Sharon Speedway, leading all 30 circuits around the three-eighths-mile oval to score $5,000 payday.

For Bell, the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions victory was the second of his young career and his first since July of 2016 when he won the Dirt Classic Indiana preliminary feature at Kokomo Speedway.

Bell’s Lou Blaney Memorial triumph occurred during the 100th Arctic Cat All Star visit to Sharon Speedway.

The Norman, Okla., native started second on the Lou Blaney Memorial grid and took command right away, ultimately lapping up to the ninth position, crossing under the checkers 1.03 seconds ahead of the Joey Saldana and defending Arctic Cat All Star champion Chad Kemenah.

“I just want to thank all of you fans for coming out here tonight,” Christopher Bell said in victory lane. “It’s a pleasure to drive in front of a crowd like this. You guys are the reason why we are out here. It’s a true honor to be able to win this race. It means so much to me. I think sprint cars have kinda been the downfall of my career, so I’m glad to prove to all of you fans that I can be a great sprint car driver, too.”

Christopher Bell (11n) battles Lee Jacobs Saturday at Sharon Speedway. (Julia Johnson photo)

Bell survived three cautions during his campaign at the front of the field, extending his advantage to nearly three seconds during certain segments of the main event. Even when traffic intensified, the pilot of the Dough-Si-Dough/Linder’s Speed Equipment/No. 11N was flawless, maneuvering by two to three cars at a time.

“The track was really technical up there on the wall,” Bell said. “It made it pretty easy to screw up and crash, so I’m thankful that didn’t happen. Some of the lapped cars would get going on the top, but when I got to them they would drop down. I was glad to build up a lead because I did screw up a couple of times, but nobody was able to show me a nose.”

Saldana, who started on the outside of row two, moved his way into second by lap two. At one point, the Brownsburg, Ind., native successfully used traffic to chase down Bell, nearly erasing all of his lead just before the halfway point. A caution on lap 22 would give Saldana his best chance at getting by Bell, but Bell’s route around the outer ring of the speedway proved to be too much of an upper hand.

“There was a little bit of grip at the exit of four, but I probably should have waited until the end to use it instead of right after that last restart,” Saldana said, pilot of the Indy Race Parts/No. 71. “Bell is good. He’s always winning in something, so to be second to him is a good night. I really enjoy racing with the All Stars. Hopefully Bernie and I can come back out here and do it again soon.”

The finish:

Christopher Bell, Joey Saldana, Chad Kemenah, Tim Shaffer, Lee Jacobs, Danny Holtgraver, Caleb Armstrong, Dean Jacobs, Dave Blaney, Justin Barger, Brandon Matus, Caleb Helms, Danny Smith, Ryan Smith, Carl Bowser, T.J. Michael, A.J. Flick, John Garvin, Dan Shetler, Brandon Spithaler, Jim Morris, Tyler Esh, Jack Sodeman Jr., Brent Matus, Max Stambaugh, Sye Lynch.