Christopher Bell is making his transition from dirt to asphalt racing look real easy at the start of the 2015 season. The teamwork between him and Kyle Busch Motorsports shined brightly on Sunday as he dominated the 39th Annual Rattler 250 at South Alabama Speedway in Opp, Alabama. The 2015 season opener for the Southern Super Series.
Bell led early but surrendered the lead to Casey Smith on lap 110. He took the lead back from Smith on lap 156 and was uncontested to his biggest asphalt victory in his young career. Overall, he led 203 of the 250 laps in the dominating win.
“We led early on, which wasn’t in our plans, but it worked out that way after the big crash on the second lap,” Bell explained. “I like leading because you can set your own pace and choose the tempo of the race and save your tires. I knew how fast I could run with these tires.
“After we took two tires at the first break on lap 100, Casey got real good there. But we got to lap traffic and I was able to sneak by him.”
The 20-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma took the lead on lap two after a big wreck in turns three and four that collected many contenders.
On the second lap, polesitter Anderson Bowen was leading the field into turn three when Stephen Nasse made contact with him causing Bowen to spin.
Johnny Brazier, Chad Finley, Spencer Wauters, Bret Holmes, Daniel Hemric, William Byron, Cody Coughlin, Dominique Van Wieringen, Daniel Keene, and Cole Rouse all were collected in the melee in turns three and four.
“I wasn’t trying to go for the lead on the first lap, we got 250 laps and I wouldn’t try to intentionally try to wreck someone on the first lap, Nasse said afterwards. “I came off the corner and let off the gas a little bit and went in behind him. I was on his back bumper on the straightaway and he lifted a little bit early. I am not saying it is fault, but when he lifted I was still on the gas, unfortunately I wrecked him. I feel so bad that I did it. That is not how I want to race. I know I upset a lot of people and I cost some people a lot of money.”
Bowen didn’t feel it the same way as Nasse did after the race.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was a racing deal. When the car is in front of you and you square up to the rear bumper, it’s not really racing you are trying to move him out of the way,” Bowen explained. “When you do that to complete the second lap, it’s not how you race, but we will move on to the next one.”
After a red flag to clean up the accident scene, Bell took the lead until the first break on lap 100. After that break, Smith would get by Bell to lead the next 46 laps until Bell was able to put the famous #51 back on top of the scoring pylon then to victory lane.
Smith was very all smiles after his runner-up finish.
“We have had a lot of bad luck the past few years and it makes this even sweeter,” Smith said. “I wish we could have won it. Man it would be nice to win one of these big races, but Bell was awesome today.”
Chase Elliott made the trip from Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the event. He started at the rear of the field and drove to a third place finish.
“We are definitely not satisfied, we have some work to do,” the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series Champion said. “We were in a good spot to try to go and grab the win at the end of the race. I don’t know if I forgot how to short track race or if I ever knew how. I really appreciate Cale Gale, Ricky Turner and the rest of the guys on setting up the car and Ricky making the right adjustments during the race.”
Daniel Hemric came from starting 25th to finish fourth with Garrett Jones rounding out the top five.
The victory was also Bell’s longest race in his career, and he learned something for his next event.
“I definitely learned something. My dirt gear isn’t going to work on the pavement in the hot heat,” said Bell. “I definitely need to get a helmet with an air vent. I was glad to go out there and finish it off with these guys.”
The Southern Super Series will be back in action on Saturday, April 11th at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.
CLICK HERE for Sunday’s Trackside Now replay.
Southern Super Series
39th Annual Rattler 250
|16||8||John Hunter Nemechek||244|
|18||5||Dominique Van Wieringen||240|
|23||30||Bobby Knox, Jr.||131|
|33||5K||Daniel Keene, Jr.||1|
– Kevin Ramsell, Speed51.com Director of Business/Midwest Editor. Twitter: @KevinRamsell
Photo Credit: Speed51.com