Could he be the next Kyle Larson?
It was just a matter of time before Christopher Bell got his first dose of asphalt racing. The photo above, from a recent Chili Bowl outing, shows the young driver in a more familiar setting.
That first asphalt outing came this past weekend as the 19-year-old from Norman, OK, drove a Kyle Busch Motorsports asphalt late model in twin 50-lap features at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
Already a winner of 20 feature events in Sprint Car and Midget action on dirt this year, the transition to a full-sized Late Model on asphalt is a big one. But the young shoe seems to be adapting quite well, leading the early stages of the first race before finishing fourth. His second feature was cut short by mechanical problems.
After some Thursday night testing, an open practice on Friday proved beneficial. “It really helped to be on the track around other cars and get a feel for just how big these cars are.”
Race day rolled around on Saturday and it was time for the real deal. Diverging from the dirt world that he’s accustomed to, both Saturday qualifying laps had implications with the first qualifying lap setting the grid for the first 50-lap feature and then the second qualifying lap setting the lineup for the second 50-lap feature.
“I got lucky and laid down two good laps in qualifying that put us starting third in both features,” Bell explained. “Then one of the guys that qualified ahead of us in the first race got sent to the tail for some reason, so we moved up to the front row.”
With a front row seat for the first 50-lapper, the original start didn’t go as planned. “I missed a shift on the first start, it’s just part of the learning process in these cars. We got lucky and had a restart though.”
No missed shift this time
There was no missed shift on the second start, with Bell taking off and leading the way in the early going.
“We were fast early then we kind of faded, we were still able to finish fourth though,” Bell explains. “The first 10 or 15 laps though, I thought we were going to win this thing.”
After taking the checkered flag fourth in his first asphalt attempt, Bell’s was forced pitside in the second 50-lapper.
“We were fast and the car felt good,” Bell said of a successful asphalt debut. “Everything about this is different, it’s a learning process.”
Bell gets another round of asphalt late model action in the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 51 with this Saturday’s 100 lapper at Hickory Motor Speedway.