NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Christopher Bell won the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals on Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, becoming the first native Oklahoman to win the event in 22 years.
Bell, 22, said his victory in one of the most prestigious events in dirt racing fulfilled a lifelong dream.
"I'm speechless right now," Bell said shortly after the event while clutching his Golden Driller trophy. "I've been coming to this building for so long trying to win one of these things, and I thought I was really close to one at the (Tulsa) Shootout a couple weeks ago, but we had a lot of bad luck but I'll trade all that bad luck in for this Driller (trophy) right here. This means the world to me,"
The last native of Oklahoma to win the Chili Bowl was Andy Hillenburg, another driver with strong NASCAR ties who did it in 1994. From 1991 through 2004, Hillenburg ran races in all three NASCAR national touring series.
Earning the victory for Keith Kunz Motorsports, Bell's win was Kunz's sixth overall Chili Bowl title as a car owner since '94 when Hillenburg wheeled the Keith and Rusty Kunz-owned entry to Victory Lane. Kunz also was the winning car owner the previous two years when Rico Abreu won back-to-back Chili Bowls.
Bell had said after qualifying for his fourth consecutive championship A-Feature last Thursday night that, for him, the Chili Bowl was as big as any race in NASCAR.
"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."
Now he will get his name on T-shirts proclaiming him as the 2017 Chili Bowl champion.
"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 had said prior to the championship final.
Bell is 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.
Bell drives the No. 4 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series. In just 30 career starts in the series, he already owns two wins, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
For complete Saturday night results from the Chili Bowl, click here.