Christopher Bell Is Here To Win, Not Make Friends

Christopher Bell practices for Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway. Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

Christopher Bell arrived at Martinsville Speedway on Friday intent on the serious business of trying to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, but his victory in last Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Kansas Speedway was still a prime topic of conversation.

With four laps left in the Kansas Lottery 300, Bell pulled a slide job on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones and steered his No. 18 Toyota up to the wall in front of Jones’ No. 20, which plowed into the back of Bell’s Camry.

Set to drive full-time for JGR next season, Bell went on to win in his fifth start, while Jones nursed his wounded car to a 15th-place finish, one lap down. After the race, Jones was critical of Bell’s “dirt-track” move.

After talking to Jones later, however, Bell believes the hatchet is buried.

“Me and Erik – we’re fine,” Bell said on Friday before practicing his Kyle Busch Motorsports Tundra in preparation for Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200 Truck Series race at Martinsville. “I reached out to him after the race. We’re fine. Our relationship is kind of how it was before that. There’s no grudges held, at least that I know of.

“I don’t know. I’m a dirt racer, and he’s not a dirt racer, so maybe that was two backgrounds clashing right there. I executed my move exactly how I wanted to do it, and I felt like I left him multiple options to get a different outcome. That’s kind of where I’m going to leave it.”

It’s not that Bell and Jones were bosom buddies before the race, even though both have advanced through the Toyota development pipeline. When Bell starts his first full-time Xfinity season with JGR next year, Jones will move into the seat of Gibbs’ No. 20 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ride.

“As far as mine and Erik’s relationship, we weren’t really, I guess, friends before,” Bell said. “We didn’t talk every day or anything like that. We were acquaintances, so I think that’s going to continue on.

“I made sure that I reached out to him after the race. I tried to smooth things over as good as I can. We’re all here to win. We’re not here to become buddies.”

The Truck Series leader was second fastest in opening practice on Friday behind two-time champion Matt Crafton, who covered the .526-mile distance in 20.129 seconds (94.073 mph) on his 11th and final lap of the session.

Ben Rhodes Takes His Cross-Training To Boxing Ring

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs contender Ben Rhodes isn’t one to confine his aggressive impulses to the race track.

The driver of the No. 27 ThorSport Racing Toyota stays in shape by letting his fists fly in the boxing ring. To Rhodes, it’s a more efficient way of training than spending two hours on a bicycle.

“It’s just something fun to do,” Rhodes said. “It changes up the monotony of training. You get on a bike, and you cycle for two hours, and it’s strung out, it’s very long.”

Boxing, on the other hand, is a quick way to boost the heart rate to levels that approximate what a drivers achieves on the track.

“I enjoy the intensity of it, the practicality of it, right?” Rhodes said. “It’s just fun. I’m a big fan of boxing and UFC. I can’t say I’m a huge football or stick-and-ball sport fan, but I’m a huge fan of boxing and UFC. Any time it’s on TV, you’ll catch me buying the pay-per-view stuff.”

And Rhodes can see similarities between boxing and racing.

“One of the cool things about that sport versus our sport is that it’s what you make of it,” said Rhodes, who fights as a bantamweight (112-118 pounds). “When you’re in the race car, you can be really, really tense, and you can burn yourself out really, really quickly. Or you can be relaxed, and you can have a better frame of mind and approach every corner with a clear head.

“With boxing, you get in the ring, and you can wear yourself out really quickly, or you can relax and kind of let the punches go. It kind of translates well, I guess. It’s just something to give me a little more clarity.”

John Hunter Nemechek Is Fast On The Track And Off

Who knew an Ironman Triathlon is a contact sport?

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title contender John Hunter Nemechek found that out quickly when he competed in his first half-triathlon last Sunday in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Covering 70.3 miles of swimming, biking and racing, Nemechek completed the course in 4 hours, 53 minutes, 26 seconds, beating his goal time of five hours. He was fourth in the 18-24 age group and 146th overall in a field of 1,736 competitors.

“The swimming was probably my most difficult part,” Nemechek said. “Swimming in the ocean, we had the tide with us, pushing us, so it was a fast swim, but it was brutal – swimming over people, people swimming over you, getting kicked in the face, getting kicked in the chest.

“No one cares. You’re all going for the same real estate. You can kind of compare it to Martinsville, beating and banging and going at it.”

Once he got past the swim, Nemechek excelled.

“You could tell who had different disciplines,” he said. “Luckily, I was good on the run and the bike. The swim can kill your time, but I definitely think the bike and the run is what you have to focus on.

“That’s kind of what I did, and I hauled the mailed on both. We were able to make up some time at the end.”


About Reid Spencer-NASCAR Wire Service