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Christopher Bell dominates for Truck Series win at Atlanta

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It was a Bell-ringing day in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Pole-sitter Christopher Bell won the first two stages of the event, then regained the lead late after a caution to claim his third career Truck win in 32 starts.

Following a late caution brought out by an Austin Cindric spin, Bell had a great restart with two laps left, holding off a strong charge by former Truck Series champion Matt Crafton.

“This thing was really fast all weekend,” Bell told FS1 in victory lane. “It was a dream machine. It was really, really good.”

Added Crafton, “We had a shot. At the end of the day that was what it all about. It was close.”

MORE: Results of Active Pest Control 200 Truck Series Race At Atlanta

MORE: Bell Takes Over Camping World Truck Series Points Lead After Atlanta Win

Bell dominated the first two stages, leading the first 83 laps. When the third stage began, teammate and team owner Kyle Busch gained the lead coming off pit road, with Bell alongside on the front row.

Busch seemed headed to the win, but he fell back and then cut a tire, making contact with the outside wall and ending his chances at the checkered flag. He finished 26th.

Bell ultimately led 99 laps in the 130-lap event.

Crafton finished second, followed by Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Chase Elliott. Sixth through 10th were Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Grant Enfinger, Timothy Peters and Ross Chastain.

Prior to the Truck race, Busch won the Xfinity Series’ Rinnai 250 earlier in the afternoon and was seeking a three-race sweep, including Sunday’s featured Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 NASCAR Cup race. He still can go 2 for 3.

STAGE 1 (Laps 1-40) WINNER: Christopher Bell.

STAGE 2 (Laps 41-80) WINNER: Christopher Bell.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: It was a good day for Truck Series regulars, who claimed the top four spots and six of the first nine spots. … Chase Elliott, who made only his second Truck Series start since 2013, finished fifth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Last year’s race winner, John Hunter Nemechek, was knocked out of the race when a right-side tire blew out and sent him into the wall on Lap 79. Nemechek finished 28th. … After avoiding a crash on the first lap and improving from 17th to ninth over the next 25 laps, NASCAR On NBC analyst Parker Kligerman lost power in his truck under caution on Lap 28. He coasted to a stop on the back straightaway. He was unable to get restarted and finished 31st in the 32-truck field.

NOTABLE: Surprising Daytona winner Kaz Grala finished 15th. … Japanese driver Akinori Ogata, making his sixth career Truck start and first of 2017, was involved in a late Stage 2 incident that ended his day with a 30th place finish.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Please, please do not repave this racetrack. This is, by far, the coolest racetrack that we race on.” – Runner-up Matt Crafton on FS1 (AMS will begin repaving the entire track following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race).

WHAT’S NEXT: The Truck Series is off for the next four weeks. The next race is April 1 at Martinsville Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

My Home Tracks: New Mexico’s the Land of Enchantment and home of Cardinal Speedway

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The state of New Mexico is known more for IndyCar racing, with the Unser family being the state’s favorite sons.

Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, brother Bobby three and Al’s son Al Jr. a two-time winner (this weekend’s 500 marks the 25th anniversary of Little Al’s second 500 triumph).

But there’s a strong grassroots racing scene in the Land of Enchantment, particularly in the far southeast corner of the state at Cardinal Speedway, a half-mile dirt track in the little town of Eunice.

NASCAR America continues its My Home Track series of 50 states in 50 shows.

Wednesday, we visit New York state.

2018 NASCAR schedule changes: EVP Steve O’Donnell breaks it down (video)

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On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR America, NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell joined us to discuss the NASCAR Cup schedule changes in 2018, including running a road race at Charlotte and having Indianapolis be the final race before the playoffs.

“I’m real excited about these changes,” said O’Donnell, who cited unprecedented cooperation between NASCAR, its teams, drivers and sponsors to reach agreement on the schedule changes.

Among the key changes: Las Vegas will kick off the 10-race playoffs in 2018 (Chicagoland Speedway, which will have hosted the last seven playoff openers, will return to its more traditional race date in early July/late June and serve as a run-up to the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona.

Several other changes include:

  • The fall playoff race at Charlotte will move up a couple weeks in the schedule and also incorporate competition on both the infield road course and part of the speedway itself.
  • After 14 years as the deciding race to qualify for the NASCAR Cup playoffs, Richmond International Raceway will now become the second race of the playoffs.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see it’s Brickyard 400 go from late July to become the final qualifying race for the playoffs in early September. While still in the rumor stage, there’s a lot of talk that IMS may change the race to something akin to its Verizon IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix race in mid-May, where half the race is run on the infield road course and the other half on the traditional racetrack surface.

Catch up on all the changes in the above video.

Tony Stewart pulled over by state trooper, but it’s not for speeding

Photo courtesy Damein Cunningham Twitter account
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Retired NASCAR Cup driver and team co-owner Tony Stewart was stopped by an Illinois State Trooper over the weekend near DeKalb, Ill., about 90 minutes west of Chicago.

But before you think Stewart was stopped for speeding by Trooper Damein Cunningham, he wasn’t.

Rather, Cunningham pulled Stewart over for improper lane usage, although exactly what the infraction was is unclear.

After getting a verbal warning, Stewart gladly posed with Cunningham for a selfie, which the trooper promptly tweeted out.

“Just pulled over NASCAR LEGEND Tony Stewart on I-88 in DeKalb, IL, what you think I got him for? #NASCAR #ISP”

But according to the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham’s bosses apparently didn’t have a sense of humor about the incident or realize the good PR it meant for the Illinois State Police.

That, or they’re not Stewart or NASCAR fans. They ordered Cunningham to delete the tweet, which he did.

It’s unclear what Stewart, who was stopped on his 46th birthday, was doing in the Land of Lincoln.

But his luck went from bad to worse a few hours later. According to USA Today, Stewart and others were stuck in an elevator in a Madison, Wisconsin hotel for about 20 minutes before being rescued by firefighters.

We can just imagine what the elevator riders talked about while trapped.

How much do you want to bet Stewart said, “Man, do I have a story about a cop that I have to tell you.”

Cunningham then posted another tweet on Sunday after attending church services.

 

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All-Star Race will remain at Charlotte in 2018

Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
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NASCAR confirmed that the All-Star Race will be held again at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite more of a push from competitors and others to move the event.

Criticism was raised after last weekend’s 70-lap event featured only three lead changes. Kyle Busch took the lead on the restart to begin the final 10-lap stage and went on to win. It marked the fourth time in the last five years the All-Star winner led every lap in the final stage. In 12 All-Star Races at Charlotte since the track was repaved, there have been two lead changes in the final five laps.

Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, was clear in a call with reporters Tuesday that the All-Star Race is set for Charlotte.

“We’ve finished our discussions for ’18,” he said. ” We’ll begin looking at ’19 and beyond in the near future.”

The All-Star Race debuted at Charlotte in 1985, moved to Atlanta in 1986 and returned to Charlotte the following year. It has been held at Charlotte ever since.

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