BELLEVILLE, Ill. — Christopher Bell survived a grueling 40-lap “Belleville Bash” on Saturday night at Belle-Clair Speedway to post his first Honda USAC Dirt Midget Series victory of the season.
It was the eighth career victory for the defending series champion, who earned his first World of Outlaws sprint car win earlier in the week.
Chris Windom jumped from the pole to the lead, but Kevin Thomas Jr. was the man on the move early on, taking the lead on lap five. Bell was moving slowly through from row-four, but cautions were slowing his progress.
Finally, Bell started his duel through the middle course of the race with Thomas as he took the lead on lap 12. The two traded sliders as Thomas led again briefly at the line on lap 22 before Bell took over again.
Thomas stayed with Bell as they moved from the middle of the track to the top, but ignition problems sidelined the Cullman, Alabama driver late in the going.
Bell cruised to the finish late, winning by 1.453 seconds in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 71 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I have learned that this place takes a lot of finesse. It’s really easy to over-drive it, especially when the cushion gets up on the fence like that. It’s not gonna move up there, and you have to be careful not to hit it too hard. It was a heck of a race with Kevin Thomas Jr., and we raced clean up there for the lead. My car was great again, and obviously the package for all three of us (Kunz cars) is strong,” Bell said.
Bryan Clauson, who started 10th, picked his way to second at the end, registering his first podium of the season in the Westin Fairbury Packaged Meats – Curb Records No. 63 Spike/Esslinger.
“I felt like everything happened right in front of me, and I was involved in some tangles and had contact in a couple, too. We made it through, though. We needed longer runs to really get going, but overall it was a pretty good night after missing it a little in qualifying,” Clauson said.
Rico Abreu, who set ProSource “Fast Time” to begin the night, rebounded from an early tangle to storm back to third, backing up his wins at Kokomo last month. The St. Helena, California driver retained his point lead in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD No. 97 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I was a little too impatient early and got in the back of someone. That sent us to the back, but luckily it was early enough in the race that we were able to rebound and get back through there. I’m not a points racer, so missing an opportunity to race with those guys for the win is disappointing. The track was a handful, but we passed a lot of cars,” Abreu said.
Tanner Thorson and Daniel Robinson rounded out the top five.