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2016 hasn’t been the season that Christopher Bell wanted so far, but thanks to a win at Gateway Motorsports Park, the rookie’s ticket to the Chase has been punched.
Bell inherited the lead on the final round of cautions and got the better of multiple late race melees – both in and out of the cockpit – to claim Saturday’s Drivin’ for Linemen 200 at Gateway, his first win since the 2015 MudSummer Classic at Eldora Speedway.
Bell held on to the victory by fending off a hard-charging Ben Rhodes. Starting the race on the pole, Rhodes challenged early and often, running inside of the top 10 for the majority of the 160-lap event.
Rhodes briefly inherited the lead late in the race, when Bell was sent up the racetrack from contact and the top two – Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek – wrecked. However, Bell beat Rhodes on the ensuing restarted held the lead from there until the finish.
Rhodes settled for a second-place finish, with Daniel Hemric, Johnny Sauter and Erik Jones rounding out the top 5.
Nemechek, German Quiroga, Kaz Grala, Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters completed the top 10.
Coming off a brief rain delay, which also canceled qualifying, the caution flag flew 12 times on the evening. The red flag was also displayed three times, twice for severe wrecks involving Austin Wayne Self, Jordan Anderson, Matt Crafton and Tyler Reddick among others. The other stoppage was also for a cleanup, but it led to much more as John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher came to fists in turn 1.
Through it all, Bell kept his cool and, ultimately, was rewarded with the night’s biggest prize.
With his win, Bell is the fourth driver to put a win towards clinching a spot in the inaugural Chase this fall. He joins Sauter, Byron, Crafton and Nemechek.
The NCWTS will return to action on July 7, when the field heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Kentucky 225.