Kentucky: TJ Bell race report

Bell earned his best start of the season and looked to be a strong contender for Saturday night's race but a blown engine ended the day just 29 laps shy of the conclusion of the 150-lap race. SPARTA, KY. (July 18, 2009)- TJ Bell and his ...

Bell earned his best start of the season and looked to be a strong contender for Saturday night's race but a blown engine ended the day just 29 laps shy of the conclusion of the 150-lap race.

SPARTA, KY. (July 18, 2009)- TJ Bell and his #11 Red Horse Racing team headed to Kentucky Speedway for a fresh start. After a bumpy start to the season, the team planned to put all the bad luck behind them and start over at race number 12 of the year. It looked like they had turned a corner when Bell sat third quick in final practice and then backed that effort up by earning his best start of the season and putting the #11 Red Horse Racing machine in the 10th position for the start of the Built Ford Tough 225. Everything the team had control over was going smoothly. Bell was running competitive lap times, the team was picking up positions on pit road and the #11 machine was feeling good until the half way point of the race when Bell reported issues with the engine. As the laps wound down, the engine problem worsened and by lap 100, the engine was down a cylinder. Bell's goal was just to finish the race but the engine could not make it until the end. It finally blew up on lap 121, just 29 laps shy of finishing the race. Bell had to pull his Toyota Tundra into the garage and park it for the remainder of the event.

Starting fresh seemed to be working for the #11 Red Horse Racing team. In two practice sessions on Friday, Bell was fast and reporting that his truck would be really good for the race. He finished final practice third quick on the speed chart. During qualifying on Saturday afternoon, Bell backed up his fast practice lap, and earned the 10th starting spot for the Built Ford Tough 225. It marked his best start of the season.

When the green flag dropped at Kentucky Speedway, Bell was ready to go. Starting from the 10th spot, he struggled with the loose in and center condition and slipped back to the 17th spot just 11 laps into the race. Crew chief Rick Gay and Bell discussed the truck's condition and talked about changes to make on the first stop. As Bell continued to battle his truck, he continued to loose track position and fell to the 20th spot by lap 27. He was now reporting that the truck was still loose in but was also tight off.

The caution flag flew for the first time on lap 33 giving Bell some relief. Gay called his driver to pit road on lap 35 and the team worked quickly to put on four fresh tires and make an air pressure adjustment. Bell returned the following lap for fuel and a track bar adjustment that would help his loose in, tight off condition. A lightening fast pit stop helped Bell pick up 11 spots on pit road and he restarted from the ninth position.

Back to where he started, Bell was ready to start his march to the front. Instead of moving forward, Bell began to slip back again and found himself in the 14th position on lap 44. Reporting that the truck was just a little snug off, Bell was facing a much larger problem under the hood. He told the team the engine sounded off and seemed to surge instead of running smoothly. Keeping an eye on the developing engine problem, the #11 team watched their driver slip back to the 16th spot.

Nearing the fuel window, Gay called for a green flag pit stop on lap 97 for fuel only. During the stop the team had a chance to hear the engine and could tell their engine problems were worse than they thought. The engine had already dropped a cylinder. Bell merged back on track in the 19th position just hoping to be able to finish the race. The caution came out on lap 110, giving the #11 team a chance to pit for fresh tires. Bell came to pit road on lap 113 and picked up four fresh tires and returned the following lap to top off with fuel. He headed back on track and restarted 19th on lap 116.

Bell was taking care of his Toyota Tundra and trying to make it until the end but on lap 121, the engine finally blew up. He was forced to bring the #11 Red Horse Racing machine to the garage and park it. Unable to finish the race, Bell and the team were forced to accept a 23rd place finish in the Built Ford Tough 225 at Kentucky Speedway. Although the team was disappointed in the outcome, they were also encouraged by the progress they made during the weekend.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will head to Indianapolis, Indiana this week. The AAA Insurance 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park is scheduled for Friday evening, July 24th. It will be televised on SPEED Channel at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

-credit: rhr

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Series NASCAR Truck
Teams Red Horse Racing