Coming off their first win of the 2018 season last weekend in Richmond, Christopher Bell and his Rheem team rolled into Talladega Superspeedway for the Sparks Energy 300 and the second restrictor-plate race of the 2018 season on Saturday afternoon. After qualifying his Rheem Camry 13th for the 113-lap event, Bell would overcome a blown left rear tire on lap 24 and cross the finish line in 12th after 300-miles were complete at the Talladega, AL speedway.
Following the drop of the green flag, Bell and the field stayed two-by-two in the draft, with Bell working his way up to ninth by lap six. Bell picked up one spot by lap eight when the first 10 cars would start running single file around NASCAR’s largest track. Content on staying in line, Bell continued to run in eighth until lap 24 when his left rear tire went flat causing him to drop to the apron of the track. Despite the setback, Bell keep the damage to a minimum and ended stage one in 30th when the caution flag waved on lap 25. Under the caution, crew chief Jason Ratcliff called Bell down pit road for four tires, fuel and repairs to the Rheem Camry. Following the stop, Bell restarted stage two in 38th on lap 31.
Wasting no time working his way back towards the front following the restart, Bell settled into the draft and was scored in 15th by lap 45 and 12th when the caution flag waved once again on lap 50, the end of stage two. Under the caution, Ratcliff once again called Bell down pit road, this time making a fuel only stop. With the strategy paying off, Bell picked up multiple spots on pit road and restarted the final stage in first on lap 56.
Following the restart, Bell settled in for a long green-flag run and would run two-by-two in draft, being scored in third when he made a green-flag pit stop on lap 76. During the stop, Ratcliff called for a fuel only stop once again on the Rheem Camry. With teams on varying pit strategies, Bell rejoined the field in 17th on lap 77. Running single file with a group of eight cars, Bell picked up a few spots during the run and was scored in seventh when the final caution of the afternoon waved on lap 105. Staying out under the caution, Bell survived a wild green-white-checkered finish and crossed the finish line in the 12th position in his Rheem Camry.
Bell and his Rheem team return to the track next weekend at Dover International Speedway for their first visit of the 2018 season at the track known as the “Monster Mile”. Coverage of the race begins on Saturday, May 5th at 1:30pm ET live on Fox Sports 1, MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
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