Christopher Bell hasn’t had time to dwell on losing the NASCAR Xfinity Series title.
The Norman, Oklahoma, native, who turned 24 last month, has spent a lot more time winning since the stock car season ended in November.
In addition to collecting trophies at Turkey Night Grand Prix in Ventura, Calif., the Gateway Dirt Nationals in St. Louis, and a ring for the World 50-Lapper at Western Springs Speedway in Auckland, New Zealand, Bell finally asked his girlfriend of four years, Morgan Kemenah, to be his bride.
And she said, “Yes!”
“That was a really special moment—and what’s even more special about it is my future father-in-law (Brian Kemenah) is working on my sprint car and we won our first race together,” Bell said. “That was pretty cool.”
A racer has to have his priorities together, and Bell certainly has that working for him. For Christmas, Bell brought the Kemenah family—Morgan, Brian and Stacy—to New Zealand for a “racecation”.
After a five year absence, Bell returned to race the United Truck International Midget Series, as well as several Sprint Car races, starting with the Boxing Day Bash on Dec. 26.
Bell won his first two Sprint Car features as a tremendous rivalry developed with him and seven-time New Zealand Midget Champ Michael Pickens. But Bell, who has dominated midget competition in the top shows in the States, flipped his car three times in the first three nights at the Springs. The first wreck happened in the first lap of the first heat race.
“I think I’ve taken three really hard crashes in my life and two of them have come here,” Bell said. “I don’t know what it is about this place but I seem to turn over a lot here.”
That changed when he won the finale in Auckland over Pickens on Saturday. Bell won his qualifier but Logan Seavey posted the top speed in time trials. Bell then won the Dash over Pickens and Seavey to start the World Midget 50-Lapper on the pole.
Pickens jumped out to an early lead but Bell was back in control by Lap 20. After the first caution, Kyle Larson, who started eighth passed Pickens for second on Lap 27 and set his sights on Bell. The second caution occurred with eight laps remaining and Bell leading, Larson, Seavey, Pickens and Zack Daum.
Although Larson was the defending winner of the race—and previously won the World 30-Lapper and King of the Springs—he flipped after hitting the cushion on the restart with seven laps to go.
Bell sailed off to a 1.469-second victory over Pickens for his first midget win of the week. Seavey, Brock Maskovich and Daum rounded out the top five.
“This one goes out to Brian, Shaun Insley, all these guys have been working extremely hard to get me comfortable,” Bell said after the win. “We’ve been fast all week long, it just hasn’t worked out for us. I’m glad we were able to win one down here because I felt like we had the car to win, we just haven’t been able to capitalize on it. Ever since I got down here, I haven’t been really comfortable and I haven’t felt what I needed to feel in this thing until the BC (Bryan Clauson) race midway through the night until they made some changes and really made me feel comfortable.
“It’s an honor to come out here and race in New Zealand in front of this crowd, man. We don’t get to race in front of crowds like this very often. If you guys don’t come out to the race track, then we don’t have any jobs. So thank you for coming out and supporting dirt track racing. Thank you for coming out and supporting Western Springs. Man, that was fun!”
Now Bell’s attention will turn to the 2019 Chili Bowl Nationals where he looks to become the first driver to win three Golden Drillers in a row since Kevin Swindell won four-straight from 2010 to 2013.
“I feel really good about it,” said Bell, who will run his preliminary on Thursday. “There’s always a great field of cars. It should be a great race.”