Christopher Bell Still Has His Eye On The Big Prize

Christopher Bell

 Christopher Bell put up solid numbers last year in his first full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Despite finishing third in the 2016 championship standings, Bell felt that his season was lackluster and aimed to run up front and win more races in 2017.

The Oklahoma native has done just that and if you ask him about the strides he has taken, he’ll tell you that a lot of the credit goes to his crew chief, Ryan “Rudy” Fugle. Fugle is in his fourth season as a crew chief at Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) and sixth overall with the organization. The New York native has guided his team to an Owner’s championship in all three of his seasons (2013, 2015 and 2016) atop the pit box at KBM, including a combined Owner’s/Driver’s Championship with Erik Jones in 2015.

Entering Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, Fugle’s drivers have combined for 21 wins, 13 poles, 2,920 laps led, 47 top-five and 70 top-10 finishes across his 89 races calling the shots at KBM. He led Jones to three wins en route to the Driver’s championship in 2015 and last season guided William Byron to a NCWTS rookie-record seven wins. Last year at Phoenix, Byron was an engine failure away from delivering back-to-back Driver’s championships for Fugle, but was still able to earn KBM its fourth consecutive and fifth overall Owner’s championship when he rebounded from the heartbreak to win the series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

With Byron graduating to a full-time XFINITY Series ride this season, Fugle was paired with Bell and the duo has the No. 4 Toyota team in contention for another combined championship. In addition to pacing the standings for the last 10 races, the 22-year-old driver leads the Truck Series in nearly every major statistical category this season, including wins (five), poles (four), top-five finishes (14), top-10 finishes (19), driver rating (117.9), average finish (5.8), average running position (6.1), laps led (775) and fastest laps run (368).

Bell stands 55 points above the cutoff line for earning one of the three remaining spots for the championship race and if he can earn just six points in Friday night’s 150-lap event, will advance to Homestead-Miami. He finished seventh in his debut at the one-mile track last season. Fugle’s statistics as a crew chief at Phoenix are rather impressive. In his three races calling the shots in the “Valley of the Sun,” his drivers have led 67.1 percent (302) of the 576 total laps. In 2013, Jones became the youngest winner in Truck Series history at the time, when he led a race-high 84 laps en route to victory as a 17-year-old. Last season the 19-year-old Byron led a race-high 112 laps and was out front with 12 laps remaining when his engine expired.

Both Jones and Byron earned promotions to the NASCAR Xfinity Series after learning from Fugle and it already has been announced that Bell will follow in their footsteps. Before he moves on to a full-time gig with Joe Gibbs Racing next season, the talented wheelman hopes to be the next of Rudy’s tutees to hang a championship banner from the rafters at KBM.

Christopher Bell, driver of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:

What is your outlook heading into Phoenix Friday night?

“I’m really excited for Phoenix — it’s a place that Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) has had a ton of success at and that gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve noticed that everywhere William (Byron) won, or had strong runs at last year, that I’ve had a ton of confidence going into those places. The success has seemed to carry over — I think the majority of the tracks I’ve won at this year are the same ones that William won at last year. William was well on his way to another win last year at Phoenix before he had issues, so I know that Rudy and all the guys on this No. 4 team are going to bring me a fast Toyota Tundra for Friday night.”

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle, crew chief of the No. 4 NCWTS Toyota Tundra:

How are you able to have so much success with different drivers in your Tundra every year?

“It’s not easy, but the answer is just the people. Best race team, best owner, best manufacturer and great sponsors. Every one of the drivers have been special, including Christopher. They’re all a little bit different, but they’re all special. And then this race team is just really good at making whatever driver we have feel like they’re the driver of our team, and they do a great job of learning what their different niches are and making them comfortable. I’m proud to be the leader of this team.” 

Christopher Bell’s No. 4 Toyota Tundra:

KBM-28: The No. 4 Toyota Tundra team will unload KBM-28 for Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. It is the same Tundra that Bell led 54 laps with en route to victory at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta earlier this year.

KBM-28 Performance Profile:

 

Date
Site
Driver
Start
Finish
Laps
Laps Led
Status
8/16/2017
Bristol
Bell
2
7
203/203
0
Running
7/6/2017
Kentucky
Bell
2
1
150/150
54
Running
6/23/2017
Iowa
Bell
2
5
200/200
99
Running
10/1/2016
Las Vegas
Byron
10
5
146/146
0
Running
11/13/2015
Phoenix
Jones
1
9
150/150
106
Running
8/19/2015
Bristol
Jones
4
6
202/202
0
Running
7/9/2015
Kentucky
Jones
3
2
145/145
55
Running
6/19/2015
Iowa
Jones
1
1
200/200
112
Running
5/29/2015
Dover
Jones
2
3
200/200
50
Running
Totals
9 starts, 2 Wins
3.0
4.3
476

 

Notes of Interest:

 

Christopher Bell NCWTS Career Stats:

 

Year

Age

Races

Win

T5

T10

Pole

Laps

Led

AvSt

AvFn

RAF

LLF

2015

20

7 of 23

1

2

3

0

1018

111

9.3

11.9

6

4

2016

21

23 of 23

1

9

17

0

3237

197

9.2

9.5

20

19

2017

22

21 of 21

5

14

19

4

2963

775

4.7

5.8

19

19

3 years

51

7

25

39

4

7218

1083

7.4

8.3

45

42

 

 

Christopher Bell’s NCWTS Phoenix Performance Profile:

 

Date
Start
Finish
Laps
Laps Led
Status
10/11/2016
5
7
150/150
0
Running

 

 

Christopher Bell 2017 Highlights:

  • Has posted five wins (Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. and New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon), four poles, 775 laps led, 14 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes resulting and an average finish of 5.8 across 21 races

  • Currently leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) championship standings by four points over Johnny Sauter and is 55 points above the cutoff line for earning one of the three remaining spots available in the championship race

  • Won the NCWTS first-ever regular season title and earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs

  • Has posted one win, four top-five and five top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 3.2 across the first five races of the NCWTS playoffs

  • Leads the NCWTS in wins (five), poles (four), top-five finishes (14), top-10 finishes (19), driver rating (117.9), average finish (5.8), average running position (6.1), laps led (775) and fastest laps run (368)

  • Became the first driver under NASCAR’s new format to sweep all three stages of a race when he led 99 of 130 laps en route to victory from the pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3/14/17)

  • Collected his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City (10/21/17) and overall in six starts this season for Joe Gibbs Racing has one pole, 156 laps led, two top-five and four top-10 finishes

  • After restarting eighth with three laps to go, won the ARCA Racing Series event at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., (9/14/17) in his lone series start this season

  • In Midgets has eight victories; opened the 2017 season by winning his preliminary night and the feature at the prestigious Chili Bowl Midget Nationals at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway (1/15/17), swept both features at the Fourth Annual POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Turnpike Challenge at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City, Okla. (3/26/17), won consecutive USAC National Midget events at Macon (Ill.) Speedway (7/1/17) and Lincoln (Ill.) Speedway (7/2/17), the USAC National Midget event at Solomon Valley in Beloit, Kansas (8/3/17) and the Mike Phillips Memorial POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget event at Southern Illinois Raceway in Marion, Ill. (9/16/17)

  • In Sprint Cars has four victories; won the NRA Sprint Invaders feature at Limaland Motorsports Park in Lima, Ohio (4/21/17), the Ninth Annual Lou Blaney Memorial All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car race at Sharon (Ohio) Speedway (7/8/17), the Knight Before the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio (7/14/17) and the All-Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car race at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio (10/7/17)

Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Tundra: 
  • The No. 4 Tundra has collected nine wins, nine poles, 34 top-five and 56 top-10 finishes across 67 starts since originating in 2015

  • Ten members of this year’s No. 4 Tundra team were a part of last year’s No. 9 Tundra team which collected seven wins, three poles, 727 laps led, 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes across 23 starts last season and captured the 2016 NCWTS Owner’s Championship

  • Erik Jones delivered KBM its first-ever NASCAR Camping World (NCWTS) Driver’s Championship behind the wheel of the No. 4 Tundra in 2015 

KBM NCWTS Program: 
  • Holds the NCWTS records for most career wins (65), most wins in a single season (14 in 2014) and most Owner’s championships (five)

  • Erik Jones earned the organization its first-ever NCWTS Driver’s championship in 2015

  • Has collected 65 wins, 36 poles, 158 top-five and 253 top-10 finishes across 415 starts since originating in 2010

  • Ten different drivers have won a race for KBM, led by owner-driver Kyle Busch with 33. Christopher Bell, Erik Jones and William Byron have each collected seven victories, Darrell Wallace Jr., has five wins, Denny Hamlin has produced two victories while Noah Gragson, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott each collected one trophy

  • With Bell’s victory at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway KBM has at least one win at all 21 tracks on the 2017 NCWTS schedule

KBM NCWTS @ Phoenix International Raceway: 
  • KBM drivers have collected five wins, three poles, 642 laps led, seven top-five and 11 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.9 across 17 starts in the desert

  • Owner-driver Kyle Busch collected the team’s first win at the one-mile track in 2011, Brian Scott claimed the win in 2012, Erik Jones scored back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014 and Daniel Suarez was victorious in last year’s event

The Fugle File:

 

Ryan “Rudy” Fugle begins his fourth season as a crew chief at KBM and sixth overall with the organization.  The New York native has guided his team to an Owner’s championship in all three of his seasons (2013, 2015 & 2016) atop the pit box at KBM, including a combined Owner’s/Driver’s Championship with Erik Jones in 2015. His drivers have combined for 21 wins, 13 poles and 47 top-five finishes across his 89 races calling the shots for the organization. Under his tutelage last season, William Byron collected a Truck Series’ rookie record seven wins while leading the No. 9 Tundra team to KBM’s fourth consecutive and fifth overall Owner’s championship.

Fugle’s NCWTS drivers have posted one win, two poles, 302 laps led, one top-five and two top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 16.8 across four starts at Phoenix. Fugle won the 2013 event with Erik Jones. Last year he led 112 of the 115 laps with William Byron, but was relegated to a 27th-place finish due to an engine failure that occurred while Byron was leading with 12 laps remaining.

Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Tundra 2017 NCWTS Box Score:

 

Date
Site
Driver
Start
Finish
Laps
Laps Led
Status
Driver Pts./Pos.
2/24/17
Daytona
Bell
4
8
100/100
6
Running
33/9th
3/4/17
Atlanta
Bell
1
1
130/130
99
Running
93/1st
4/1/17
Martinsville
Bell
6
3
250/250
96
Running
136/2nd
5/12/17
Kansas
Bell
1
4
167/167
37
Running
187/2nd
5/19/17
Charlotte
Bell
1
3
134/134
2
Running
227/2nd
6/2/17
Dover
Bell
3
25
35/200
0
Accident
239/2nd
6/9/17
Texas
Bell
21
1
167/167
92
Running
298/2nd
6/17/17
Gateway
Bell
3
6
160/160
7
Running
342/2nd
6/23/17
Iowa
Bell
2
5
200/200
99
Running
391/2nd
7/6/17
Kentucky
Bell
2
1
150/150
54
Running
436/2nd
7/19/17
Eldora
Bell
4
9
150/150
22
Running
471/2nd
7/29/17
Pocono
Bell
3
1
60/60
7
Running
528/1st
8/12/17
Michigan
Bell
13
2
100/100
0
Running
572/1st
8/16/17
Bristol
Bell
2
7
203/203
0
Running
615/1st
9/3/17
Canadian Tire
Bell
5
26
44/64
0
Engine
634/1st
9/15/17
Chicagoland
Bell
3
3
150/150
72
Running
2040/1st
9/23/17
New Hampshire
Bell
2
1
175/175
73
Running
2100/1st
9/30/17
Las Vegas
Bell
4
2
146/146
64
Running
2152/1st
10/14/17
Talladega
Bell
1
2
95/95
9
Running
2195/1st
10/28/17
Martinsville
Bell
15
8
200/200
16
Running
3083/1st
11/3/17
Texas
Bell
3
3
147/147
20
Running
3135/1st

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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