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Toyota executive calls Truck Series ‘critical step’ in developing drivers

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A Toyota Racing Development executive says that the manufacturer would accept a spec engine in the Camping World Truck Series, noting how valuable that series is for the development of drivers.

David Wilson, president of TRD, made the comments Friday on “Tradin’ Paint” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR tested a spec engine for the Truck series multiple times last year and it is expected to be optional this season.

Wilson admits the spec engine idea has raised concerns among manufacturers.

“It is a little bit of a sensitive issue with all the manufactures,’’ Wilson said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Arguably the biggest single piece of (intellectual property) in any car or truck is the engine, so certainly that’s important to us.

“By the same token we understand the bigger picture. We have been working with NASCAR, all the (manufacturers) have been working with NASCAR to make sure that we keep this series going because here’s the bottom line — while our motivation to run in Trucks has changed over the years, it remains an absolute critical step in how we as an industry develop drivers.

“The leap from ARCA or K&N or Super Late Models straight to Xfinity, that’s too big of a leap. You need a step and that Truck Series is a very important step. You look the drivers that have come through just in our camp — Erik Jones, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez — that experience in the Truck garage has been absolutely critical in preparing them to be successful in Xfinity and ultimately in Cup. We’re going to continue to take a big picture approach with the Truck Series and work with our friends at NASCAR. If there are some spec engines that have to be under a Tundra hood, so be it, we’ll be OK.’’

Last year’s Xfinity champion and rookie of the year, William Byron, ran a full season in Trucks in 2016. Erik Jones, the 2016 Xfinity rookie of the year, ran 17 Truck races before his Xfinity debut. Daniel Suarez, the 2017 Xfinity rookie of the year, had run only one Truck race before his Xfinity rookie season but he also ran 13 Truck races while competing in Xfinity that first year.

Those young drivers also illustrate Toyota’s emphasis on new talent. But with only five seats — four with Joe Gibbs Racing and one with Furniture Row Racing —  with Cup teams partnered with TRD, Toyota is having a hard time finding spots for all its drivers.

Wilson said the manufacturer remains committed to developing drivers.

“It’s a commitment that Toyota has made to NASCAR and to motorsports,’’ he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We enjoy a tremendous amount of value. NASCAR is simply a phenomenal place for us to race. This is part of our payback.

“We feel like we have the social responsibility to give back to the series. We know we’ll lose as many of these young guys and gals as we’ll be able to keep because we simply won’t have enough seats for them. That’s just simple math. It’s already been proven out by William Byron (who raced for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Trucks before moving to Chevrolet in Xfinity and now Cup). We’ll be racing against William, who used to be in a Toyota.

“Bottom line this sport still benefits. As I’ve said before, getting to know these young kids and getting to know their parents at a young age and as they’re coming up in the sport, I believe that will pay dividends. These kids can have a career that spans decades. Who’s to say that we won’t cross paths again? By us building that relationship early on, showing them who we are … the responsibly we have to their well-being, I think it’s a sound investment.’’

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Christopher Bell wins Chili Bowl Nationals for second year in a row

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Christopher Bell took the lead from Kyle Larson with less than 15 laps to go when Larson’s engine blew and Bell went on to win the Chili Bowl Nationals for the second consecutive year.

Rico Abreu finished second in the 55-lap race on the quarter-mile track in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spencer Bayston finished third. Larson finished 19th in the 24-car field.

“To win the Chili Bowl last year was something I’ll never forget,” said Bell, the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, on the MavTV broadcast. “To do it back-to-back I’m just speechless. I’m just bummed about Kyle. I thought we were going to have a great race there.”

Earlier, Kasey Kahne finished ninth in the first B main and did not advance to the A main (the top six advanced). JJ Yeley was 12th in that race. Justin Allgaier was 18th. C.J. Leary, driving a car owned by Alex Bowman finished last in the 20-car field.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. failed to advance to the A main. He was hit and flipped at the start of the second B main and was eliminated.

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Christopher Bell wins Thursday night’s A main at Chili Bowl Nationals

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Reigning Camping World Truck Series champion Christopher Bell won the A main Thursday night to advance to Saturday night’s feature event and continue his bid to win back-to-back Chili Bowl National titles.

Shane Golobic finished second and Chase Johnson placed third. Each also advanced to Saturday night’s feature. Tanner Thorson finished 11th. He drives for a partnership of Richard Childress Racing and Dooling Hayward Motorsports. C.J. Leary, driving a car owned by Cup driver Alex Bowman, finished 18th in the 24-car field.

Among those Bell will be racing for the Chili Bowl National title Saturday will be Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu, who each won their qualifying events earlier this week.

Racing continues Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Among those scheduled to compete are Kasey Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chase Briscoe.

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Victory sends Rico Abreu into Saturday night’s Chili Bowl Nationals A main

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Rico Abreu held off a spirited challenge from Tyler Thomas to win Wednesday night’s A main and advance to Saturday night’s Chili Bowl Nationals feature.

Kevin Thomas finished third. All three advanced to Saturday night’s finale.

Abreu has made 26 career starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He drove the entire season in 2016 but made only one Truck start last season. He won the Chili Bowl Nationals main event in 2015 and 2016.

JJ Yeley placed eighth in Wednesday’s A main. Donny Schatz, who drives for Tony Stewart‘s World of Outlaws team, placed 23rd in the 24-car field.

Action continues Thursday. Among those scheduled to compete are 2017 Truck Series champ Christopher Bell, C.J. Leary in a car owned by Cup driver Alex Bowman, and Tanner Thorson in a car that features the partnership of Richard Childress Racing and Dooling Hayward Motorsports.