ARCA News

ARCA: Tire Strategy Key to Christopher Bell Victory at Salem

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SALEM, Ind. – The correct pit strategy by Venturini Motorsports resulted in victory for Christopher Bell in the Fall Classic at Salem Speedway on Saturday night. Crew chief Jeff McClure’s decision to take four tires on the ’s first pit stop played in the team’s favor and resulted in Bell’s No. 15 JBL Toyota beating Tom Hessert to the checkered flag by 1.254 seconds.

“Today, no questions asked, my crew chief won me the race. Jeff McClure did an awesome job making that call to take four tires and that was a big reason why we won today was because we had the right pit strategy,” Bell said in victory lane.

With teams having just six General Tires in their pit box for the 200-lap race, most teams took two tires on their first trip down pit road under caution at Lap 52. McClure would call for four tires on Bell’s Toyota and as a result Bell restarted outside the top-five.

“I was surprised and I wasn’t quite agreeing with it,” Bell said of the call. “I was really scared because obviously if you take four you shoot yourself in the foot if you get more yellows later. It worked out and these guys did their homework because they told me that the fall race typically goes green for a while.”

Over the radio, Bell’s team reminded him to keep his pace, be patient and let the strategy play out. After the third caution of the race at Lap 75, Bell would restart in the sixth position and quickly gain three spots before taking the lead from Briscoe and driving away to victory lane.

“I didn’t really know what to do,” Bell said when asked if he was saving his car for the end of the race. “I knew I was going to be faster than everybody. Whenever I caught guys I was taking my time and just making sure I wasn’t making any mistakes getting by them. Once I got to the lead I was basically just cruising trying to ride the race out.”

The only potential wrinkle in McClure’s strategy came when the caution came out and the leaders hit pit road to take their remaining tires. The race would restart with 35 laps to go as Bell led Josh Williams, John Wes Townley and Tom Hessert.

Hessert would quickly dispose of Townley and Williams and look to chase down his Venturini teammate Bell. Despite Hessert having four fresh tires on his No. 25 Toyota, Bell was able to drive away from the three-time Salem Speedway winner.

“My car was good enough on two tires where I could maintain the gap,” Bell said. “If it had been a 250-lap race or a 225-lap race I think the outcome might have been a little bit different. But it was 200 laps and we got there the fastest.”

Bell, who is competing full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, also won the April race at Salem and has two victories in four ARCA starts in 2016. The victory marked the third in the last four races for Venturini Motorsports (Dalton Sargeant at Berlin Speedway and Tom Hessert at the DuQuoin State Faigrounds).

Bret Holmes finished third in the No. 23 Chevrolet to earn his career best ARCA finish in just his fifth start in the series.

Williams, Townley, Chase Briscoe, Matt Kurzejewski, Mason Mingus, Zane Smith and A.J. Fike completed the top-10.

It will be a short turnaround for the ARCA Racing Series as they head to Chicagoland Speedway to compete under the lights on Thursday, Sep. 15 in the SCOTT 150.

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About Brian Eberly

Brian Eberly (@beberly18) is a Certified Public Accountant and Manager of Field Accounting at a transportation company, but when he isn’t at the office you can most likely find him at a racetrack, watching a race on television, or following the action on social media. Eberly became interested in NASCAR in the nineties when Jeff Gordon was dominating the scene, and became hooked when he attended his first race with his dad in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. Eberly has been writing about NASCAR since 2012 for various websites. An Illinois native and Northern Illinois University graduate, Eberly travels throughout the Midwest covering racing events in multiple series. When not following racing, he can be found on the golf course (usually trying to find his golf ball) and following the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and of course the NIU Huskies.

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