HAUBSTADT, Ind. – The first thing Christopher Bell said when he revealed that he was becoming an owner/driver in the 410 sprint car ranks was that he wanted to contend in, and eventually win, big races.
Bell ran down, passed and drove away from World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series point leader Brad Sweet Sunday night at Tri-State Speedway, taking the lead at lap 18 and pacing the remaining distance in the 40-lap feature for his fifth-career Outlaw win and first of the season.
It was a power performance befitting of the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contender and three-time Chili Bowl Nationals winner, coming in his first Outlaw start since unveiling his No. 21 Mobil 1/Toyota Racing Development sprinter.
However, it surprised the Norman, Okla., native that it came at Tri-State, of all places.
“This track just changes so much. I’ve never gone good here before in my life,” Bell noted in victory lane. “This is the first time I’ve come to Haubstadt and been competitive. I learned a lot today. It starts off really, really slick here, and then as the cars run, the track gets churned up and then it gains a lot of grip.
“I definitely went to school tonight, and now I’ve started to like this place. I definitely like it tonight.”
Bell started third and watched from afar early on, as Sweet got the jump from the pole and led the early stages despite six cautions in the first 12 circuits that made for a rough-and-tumble start to the action.
However, after a spin by Hunter Schuerenberg which collected Donny Schatz and Critter Malone in its wake on the 12th revolution, the remaining distance went green-to-checkered – allowing Bell to pounce.
Bell outdueled Kerry Madsen on the lap-13 restart to hold the runner-up spot, then ran down Sweet shortly thereafter and used a sweeping turn-three slide job working lap 18 to take command for good.
After that, there was no one who could stay with Bell in any capacity.
By the halfway point, Bell had a second and a half in hand over the field, and as he worked through traffic seemingly effortlessly down the stretch Bell ballooned that gap to four seconds with nine to go.
All the while, 18th-starting Sheldon Haudenschild – who visited the work area before the initial start and had to roll from the tail of the field – was storming through traffic with a fast NOS Energy Drink No. 17.
He passed Madsen for the second position with seven laps left, but by then Bell was long gone.
Bell finished out the final laps and took the win by 3.781 seconds over Haudenschild, with Madsen holding on to complete the podium. Ian Madsen and Sweet finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
“I felt good all night long and I knew that our car was really close,” Bell said. “Honestly, we didn’t really change very much all night long. We just kept getting those shorts stints, and I still felt fine. I felt like I just needed to get some time underneath of us and get going.
“I was worried there that we were gonna run out of fuel (at the end), but it all worked out.”
Though he’s accrued a host of accomplishments in NASCAR stock car racing, Bell maintains that his World of Outlaws victories hold an extra-special place in his heart and on his career resume.
None rank higher than winning in his own equipment, however. Sunday night’s win stands on its own.
“To be able to have my own race car and do what we did … winning Outlaw races is something that I cherish. Those four that I had before tonight were four of my favorite wins in my career,” Bell explained. “So to get number five here, in my own race car, myself and Chad’s … obviously it’s his first Outlaw win; it’s his first Outlaw race. So thank you so much Chad. He and all of his guys work their tails off on this thing, but it’s a lot of fun cause we’re all friends.
“I’m just very thankful to be able to be here driving this thing. What a night.”
Of note, 10-time Outlaw champion Donny Schatz was involved in two of the night’s half-dozen cautions, coming from the tail of the field twice to finish 13th. He now trails Sweet by 30 points in the standings.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.