BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Defending Honda National Midget champion Christopher Bell experienced one of the toughest nights of his career on Thursday, as he flipped during his heat at Lincoln Park Speedway and was done for the night.
Bell wasted little time rebounding, as he topped Friday’s 30-lap round two of Indiana Midget Week at Bloomington Speedway.
Damion Gardner jumped from the pole to the lead, but Bell was strong on the bottom and moved from row three to catch him as the first caution flew on lap five for Tanner Thorson, who had set ProSource Fast Time and was running inside the top six.
On the restart, Gardner slipped up off the bottom in turn-four and opened the door for Bell, who grabbed the lead and took off.
After a red flag on lap 12, Bell again opened up his lead as Bryan Clauson had moved up to the top-three and was gaining ground on Bell’s teammate, Rico Abreu, for second. Meanwhile, Thorson was slicing back through the field and had entered the top-ten.
The race took a major turn with three to go as top-10 runner Alex Bright jumped the cushion and spun in turn-three, setting up a crucial restart. Clauson jumped to the top and roared by Abreu for the runner-up spot, just as the yellow lights came on again with two to go.
On the final restart, Bell bobbled on the bottom through turns one and two, shoving the nose and allowing Clauson to get a major run up to his outside down the backstretch. Bell recovered, though, and grabbed the bottom off turn-four to hold onto his lead and take his second win of the year in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 71 Bullet/Speedway Toyota. Bell already has nine national midget wins, tying him for 71st all-time with open-wheel greats Chuck Gurney, Billy Boat, and Tony Elliott.
“I felt like I had to come back and do that for my team tonight. They were pretty upset with me after last night, so I owed it to them. I was able to stick the bottom really well from the start, but this place is really tricky. It’s so easy to get tight down there and lose the nose. I almost gave it away on the green-white-checkered, but luckily I was able to get enough drive off to hold him off. I’m feeling pretty sore still from last night, but not too bad,” Bell said.
On the final corner, Clauson slipped up and allowed Abreu to steal the second spot back, as the St. Helena, California driver strengthened his National point lead once again while taking the Indiana Midget Week lead in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota, despite racing with hardware in his shoulder from a broken collar bone sustained three weeks ago.
“I’m just focused on putting a whole night together and getting through this week. I’m not gonna complain about the injury, but there’s no need to do something stupid right now. It’s a long season and I have a lot of races left to run. It was technical, and I’ve worked so much on being patient and running a mature race on nights like tonight. I’ve got to finish races, and it’s something I’ve worked on for nights like tonight. Those long runs get me pretty sore and it’s tough to hang on, but we have great cars and I know it’s gonna be a tough week going against these guys,” Abreu said.
Clauson finished third, followed by Chris Windom and Thorson.