Nascar

For Oklahoma native and NASCAR's Christopher Bell, Chili Bowl is 'the Daytona 500'

For Oklahoma native and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals is like the Daytona 500.

And for the second year in a row, Bell went to Victory Lane on qualifying night at the five-night indoor race meet, locking him into his fourth championship A-Feature in as many years at the event in Tulsa, Oklahoma that is a highlight of the dirt-racing season.

Now Bell would like to claim the overall victory and get his name on a T-shirt commemorating the triumph.

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"I've been coming to the Chili Bowl for a long time," said Bell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma. "Growing up here in Oklahoma, this is the Daytona 500 for us.

"I remember coming here as a little kid and sitting in the frontstretch grandstands, and every year I'd go buy the Chili Bowl T-shirt. I loved being able to see all the cars on the back of the T-shirts and that's something that stood out to me as a little kid."

Bell isn't much more than a kid now. He turned just 22 years of age less than a month ago.

But he's already coming off his first full season in the NASCAR Truck Series. He finished third in the points standings after making the Championship 4 in the inaugural Truck Series Chase playoffs that gave him a chance to race for the title in the winner-take-all season finale last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In just 30 career starts in the series, he already owns two wins, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.

So his future is bright, and he would love to add Chili Bowl hardware to his expanding trophy case. Oh, and there also is the matter of that T-shirt he wants.

"Seeing my name on the back of the 2018 Chili Bowl T-shirt would mean just as much as holding a Golden Driller (trophy)," Bell said. "To be able to be in this position again, I feel like I've matured a lot as a driver since the previous times I've been in this position. I want nothing more than to win the Chili Bowl and I've got a good shot at it this week."

The event continues Friday and Saturday, with the overall winner crowned Saturday night.

The last two Chili Bowls were won by Rico Abreu, who also raced full-time in the NASCAR Truck Series last year but recently revealed that he will not be returning to his ThorSport Racing team in 2017.

Bell is set to return for a full Truck Series season in the No. 4 Toyota fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports.