The buildup to the 100th running of an Automobile Racing Club of America race at Salem Speedway on Saturday nght took nearly twice as long as it did for a Norman, Oklahoma, racer to pull off a rare win of both series races in one year at the historic track.
Christopher Bell said he owed the win at .555-mile high banks oval to his crew chief, who made the call to go with four new tires during the first caution.
“Pit strategy really worked out well for us today,” said the first double winner at Salem since Shelby Howard of Greenwood did it back in 2003. “Once we took four tires there, we were kinda of married to our opportunity.”
The 20-year-old said a caution with 40 laps to go concerned him.
“But these guys put two more tires on it and it was good enough to last us until the end,” Bell said.
Bell also credited his crew with producing the two wins at Salem this season.
“My guys at Venturini always work so hard and bring good race cars here,” he said. Venturini Racing now has six wins at Salem.
The remainder of the top five were Tom Hessert, who is second in points, Bret Holmes, Josh Williams, who is fourth in points, and John Wes Townley.
Bell didn’t dominate the first half of the race. That honor went to points leader and rookie Chase Briscoe of nearby Mitchell.
Briscoe, a 21-year-old veteran of sprint car racing and an obvious fan favorite, faded shortly after the halfway point and finished sixth. He has four wins in the series this year.
Rain washed out qualifying for the race, which started promptly at 8 p.m. and ended just less than a hour and half later.
Pre-race activities included a longer than normal autograph session for fans. That activity began at 5:30 p.m. and concluded just before the race with some short question and answer sessions with previous drivers and winners at Salem. Those sessions included NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison and Seymour’s Dill Whittymore.
Allison won a 100-lap ARCA race in 1975 and was grand marshal.
Whittymore was Rookie of the Year in 1995 and finished sixth in the ARCA standings in that year and again 1996.
Bill Kimmel Sr., the second oldest ARCA winner at Salem still living, also spoke to the crowd.
Eddie Gilstrap Motors ARCA 200: 1. Christopher Bell. 2. Tom Hessert, 3. Bret Holmes, 4. Josh Williams, 5. John Wes Townley, 6. Chase Briscoe, 7. Matt Kurzejewski, 8. Mason Mingus, 9. Zane Smith, 10. A.J. Fike, 11. Sarah Cornett-Ching, 12. Dalton Sargeant, 13. Frank Kimmel, 14. Thomas Praytor, 15. Ed Pompa, 16. Mike Basham, 17. Brad Smith, 18. Will Kimmel, 19. Richard Hauck, 20. Mike Senica, 21. Con Nicolopolous, 22. Michael Whipple, 23. Dale Shearer, 24. Dick Doheny, 25. Bradley Frye, 26. Chris Bailey.