Rookie Bell wins 100th ARCA Race at Salem

Christopher Bell at 9 pm ET on Monday, September 12, 2016 Photo - ARS

Christopher Bell at 9 pm ET on Monday, September 12, 2016
Photo – ARS

Christopher Bell is our guest on Fan4Racing NASCAR & Race Talk on Monday, September 12, 2016 at 9 pm ET. Call 929-477-1790 or tweet @Fan4RacingSite or @Sal_Sigala with any questions or comments during our LIVE broadcast.

If anyone questioned Christopher Bell’s pit strategy in the beginning, they weren’t when it was over, especially after he drove into victory lane Saturday night at Salem Speedway as winner of the 100th ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race at the legendary southern Indiana short track.

“My crew chief Jeff McClure won this one tonight,” Bell said. “He took on a bold strategy in taking four tires early on when everyone else took two. I was even wondering if we were doing the right thing.”

Indeed it was only lap 15 when all the leaders came down pit road for service to take just two tires while Bell took four. As the race played out with the long green flag run that followed, Bell’s strategy got him back to the front while most everyone else fell back.

“My guys did their homework. They know this race goes green and that went into their decision making process. This is the 100th ARCA race at Salem. This is really special. Venturini Motorsports works hard to bring really fast Toyota Camry’s. You can always count on that,” added the driver of the No. 15 JBL Toyota.

The caution finally came with 40 laps to go, but by then there were only four cars left on the lead lap. Bell pitted for outside tires while his Venturini Motorsports teammate Tom Hessert took four. In the end, it didn’t matter. Hessert was able to get within five lengths of Bell, but that was as close as he could get.

“When that yellow came out, I didn’t know how it was going to work out. But our two tires there at the end were good enough to get us there,” Bell said.

Bell became the first driver to sweep both Salem races in the same season since Shelby Howard in 2003.

Hessert, in the No. 25 Nortown Automotive Repair Toyota, finished second.

“Our car was really good tonight,” Hessert said. “I was probably a little over conservative in the first half of the race. We were one of the best cars on two tires. At the end when we put four on, I thought we’d have a shot at Christopher, but he was the best car all night. He could cut the middle off two better than anyone. Everything happens off turn two here. My Venturini Motorsports team did a great job tonight. We’ve been really strong over the last half-dozen races…really proud of all my guys.”

Bret Holmes finished a career-best third in the No. 23 Holmes II Excavating-Southern States Bank Chevrolet.

“We had a great car,” Holmes said. “We started out too loose off the corners but it got better. I’ve got to get better on older tires…I need to be more consistent. The team’s been great…I just gotta get better as a driver. Bright side…this is our best finish. We’re consistently better as a team. I’m really proud of them.”

Josh Williams finished fourth in the No. 6 Musselman’s Apple Sauce Chevrolet, the last car on the lead lap. John Wes Townley finished fifth in the No. 05 Jive-Zaxby’s Chevrolet.

Chase Briscoe finished sixth in the No. 77 Big Tine Ford, but it wasn’t what he was looking for, considering he led the first 111 laps.

“I’m frustrated…disappointed,” Briscoe said. “I really wanted to win this one. I don’t know if I was just going too hard or what, but we burned the left rear off on it. It had 160 laps on it. Got a lap down and ran out of time getting it back.”

Briscoe, like most everyone else, took two tires early on but fell way back over the long green flag run. Once Briscoe fell from the lead, Bell took control and never looked back.

As a consolation, Briscoe wrapped up the 2016 Short Track Challenge Championship presented by Protect Plus.

Matt Kurzejewski, Mason Mingus, Zane Smith and AJ Fike finished seventh through tenth, respectively.

The next race for the ARCA Racing Series is the SCOTT® 150 at Chicagoland Speedway Thursday night, September 15. The SCOTT® 150 is live on FS1 at 8:00 pm ET. The race will follow a busy day of on-track activities beginning with ARCA practice from 12:30 – 2:00 pm Central time. Menards Pole Qualifying presented by Ansell is scheduled at 4:10 pm CT and will provide live timing and scoring and live chat for all on-track activities.