WAYNESFIELD, Ohio — Norman, Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell put fans on their feet on Sunday night at Waynesfield Raceway Park, utilizing the top and bottom grooves around the high-banked, 1/3-mile oval to master traffic, ultimately battling passed the “Brownsburg Bullet” Joey Saldana to earn the inaugural Bob Hampshire Classic triumph against the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1. The $5,000 victory raised Bell’s career win total to four against Tony Stewart’s All Stars, his first-ever at Waynesfield Raceway Park.
Paul McMahan chased Bell to the final checkers, followed by early race leader, Joey Saldana, six-time and defending Series champion, Chad Kemenah, and ninth-starting, Gio Scelzi.
“I hope you guys enjoyed that one because that was a ton of fun to drive,” Christopher Bell said, driver of the Linder’s Speed Equipment/Dough-Si-Dough Shoppe/Fisher Performance/No. 11N. “I’ll tell you what, I think we need to have more sprint car races here at Waynesfield.”
Capitalizing on his outside-front row starting position, Bell commenced his hunt for the top spot early by maintaining the runner-up position at the drop of the green flag. Despite Saldana earning the early advantage from the pole position, Bell never left his tail tank, keeping himself within striking distance for the first five circuits. Bell made his first bid for the top spot on lap six, working his way under the Rudeen Racing entry at the exit of turn four. With Bell immediately stuck behind a cluster of lapped cars at the entrance of turn one, Saldana was able to return the favor and work back around Bell to regain control.
The feature’s only caution halted action on lap 17, thus allowing Bell to restart on the back bumper of Saldana. The fresh start proved to be beneficial for the Chili Bowl Nationals champion, soon working back underneath Saldana on the 21st circuit. Paul McMahan, who battled in the third position the entire distance up until that point, followed Bell around Saldana to take the second spot officially on lap 22.
Heavy traffic came into play shortly thereafter giving McMahan a few opportunities to work underneath Bell. Soon enough, Bell, who was making use of the top and middle grooves primarily, switched lanes and began working the very bottom of the corners, especially in turns three and four. The lane swap was enough to keep all momentum, even dodging a near-mishap with a lapped car to drive on to score the All Star victory over McMahan and Saldana.
“I really don’t know what happened there,” Bell said about the near-tangle with a lapped car. “We got bottled up pretty good. I don’t have a bunch of laps at this place, but I’ve watched a bunch here. There always seems to be a lot of lapped traffic, and this place is really fast. Even when it slicks off like tonight, you’re still scooting around here pretty good. Joey (Saldana) was really good there at the beginning. I knew I was good, too. I just kept tugging on that wing. The lapped cars started running really good on the bottom. They were pulling away from me coming off of four. I figured if they can do it, I can do it. It all worked out.”
“Bob Hampshire is a special guy,” Bell continued. “It’s a real honor to be able to win his race.”
The Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 will move on down the highway and continue their 2018 campaign with a pair of rescheduled starts in Pennsylvania, kicking-off the month of June with visits to Lernerville Speedway in Sarver and Bedford Speedway in Bedford on Friday and Sunday, June 1 & 3, respectively. The All Stars will visit Lernerville and Bedford only once in 2018, each awarding a $5,000 top prize.
Those seeking additional news and notes should visit each facility live on the Web at www.lernerville.com and www.bedfordspeedway.com.
-All Star Circuit of Champions Press Release
-Photo credit: All Star Circuit of Champions