Bell caps wild night with win at Drivin’ For Lineman 200

Christopher Bell began the latest stop on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this week not knowing what to expect as he prepared for his first start at Gateway Motorsports Park.

The 21-year-old Oklahoma native left the track early Sunday morning with his second career win and deeply appreciative of his talented and dedicated racing team.

On a night when there were eight lead changes, nine caution flags and a brief brawl when two drivers let their tempers get the best of them, Bell held off a late charge from Ben Rhodes to win the third annual Drivin’ for Lineman 200.

In winning for the first time on asphalt after his first victory came on a dirt track at Eldora Speedway last July, Bell ended the drama of an otherwise crazy night of racing when he took the lead for good on lap 153 of the 160-lap final and withstood a hard-charging Rhodes in the final four laps to post the win before a large turnout at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Bell, sipping a bottle of Gatorade as he addressed the media, was gave credit to his crew which is led vy Jerry Baxter.

“ This victory was for my guys. We’ve run and been so fast all year long and I just kept making a lot of mistakes,’’ Bell said. “ I just can’t say thank you to all the guys at Toyota, TRD, JBL, everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports. All my pit crew guys did a great job.

“We got awesome motors underneath the hood of these things.’’

While the win was Bell’s first of the season, it was his fifth top 10 finish. Rhodes, who placed second, scored his fourth top 10 finish. The second place finish is a career best for Rhodes, who took the lead briefly from lap 149-152.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

“It was a crazy, crazy race,’’ Rhodes said. “I was able to stay out of things, But it was crazy out there and I had a blast. Christopher (Bell) was awesome out there tonight; he came out racing for the win there at the end, that’s really what it’s all about.

“It’s a little frustrating to as close as we have in recent weeks and not be able to get ths job done and win a race. We’ll get there. We just have to keep pushing forward.

After Bell took the lead with eight laps left, tehre was one more aution flag when Jon Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher collided on turn one. Heated words were exchanged by the two drivers and the two exchanged punches before wrestling on the Gateway Motorsports Park surface.

Following the fight, Bell, choosing the inside, held off Rhodes for the win.

Daniel Hemric, driving a Draw-Tite Ford placed third while Johnny Sauter and Erik Jones rounded out the top five drivers.

Defending champion Cole Custer placed 15th, while Series Leader Matt Crafton placed 27th.

Rain, rain go away... please

For the second year in a row, rain played havoc with the festivities at the Drivin’ For Lineman 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park. With storm clouds approaching throughout the USAC Silver Crown Showdown race, a little drizzled began just as Tanner Swanson crossed the finish line.

The action was then suspended at 4.27 p.m and qualifying for the Drivin’ for Lineman 200 was canceled and later the Illinois Lottery ARCA Midwest 50 was switched until after the completion of the Drivin’ For Lineman 200.

One year ago, the start of the Drivin’ For Lineman 200 was delayed by two hours by rain.

Swanson wins Silver Crown Showdown

Driving his Bowman Properties Chevrolet to perfection on the 1.25 paved oval, Tanner Swanson took the checkered flag for the second time in less than a month as he won the Vatterott College Silver Crown Showdown on Saturday at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Winner of the Silver Crown Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis in late May, Swanson took the lead from series point leader Chris Windom on lap 27 and never trailed again as he took the $8,100 first place check.

With skies darkening and thunder being heard in the distance, Swanson, a native of Kinsburg, Calif. edged both Windom and Austin Nemire for the title. The win capped a good day for Swanson who has the fastest qualifying speed of 143.030 mph.

“This has to rate with the biggest wins of my career. If not first, it’s right up there,’’ Swanson said. “We ran very well in practice and I was pleased at how we reacted to the (heat) conditions. It was a very good day.’’

David Byrne and Joe Ligouri rounded out the top five placewinners. With his second place finish, Windom, a Canton, Ill. native, retains an 11 -point lead in the point standings (320-309) over Kody Swanson, who placed 11th on Saturday.

Novak wins Inaugural Buckingham Climbin' For Linemen competition

Jason Novak of Marion, Illinois, won the inaugural Buckingham Climbin' For Linemen competition this morning at Gateway Motorsports Park. Novak, an Ameren Illinois employee, used his skills and focus to win the Buckingham championship belt and a vacation package to Mexico provided by the Bevins Company.

The event showcases the skills of the line worker, promote safety and raise public awareness. The competition, known as the "Hurtman Rescue Championship," is sponsored by Buckingham Manufacturing. The Hurtman Rescue is a procedure all linemen are required to practice annually. This entails a co-worker climbing up to the injured lineman and using a hand line rope-and-block to lower him to safety.

“I heard about the contest through my wife's Facebook page,’’ Novak said. “It sounded like a fun thing to do. It was warm today (94 degrees with 46% humidity). I was sweating before the competition even started. But it's okay. We work in all kinds of weather. I just came back from a storm last night and came down here.’’

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean