Christopher Bell chased Brad Sweet through the first third of the Knight Before the Kings Royal, but a slight bobble opened the door and gave the young gun the top spot. Bell led the rest of the way to win at Eldora Raceway in Rossburg, OH, but had to hold off a determined charge by Donny Schatz following a lap 21 caution.
"This is super special," Bell said from Victory Lane. "We've been wanting to win here for a while. The Knight Before the Kings Royal; this is just a dream come true."
Bell failed to advance from the C Main on Thursday night on a track that was much heavier and tackier than Friday. Despite that disappointing finish, he had momentum on his side. He won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway last week, showing versatility behind the wheel that has made veteran Kyle Larson describe him as a better driver than himself.
Bell will also compete in next week's Mudsummer Classic at Eldora. It was in that race last year that he got his first victory in the Truck series and he hopes to keep his streak alive next Wednesday when NASCAR returns.
"We just got beat," Schatz said after the race. "Christopher just did a great job there. He had to change his line to the bottom so when he did I just decided to go the different direction and I just couldn't run the top. We weren't making any time up. I let it all hang out with 10 laps to go. I did everything I could, it just wasn't quite what we needed I guess."
The numbers supported Schatz's claim. He posted his fastest time on lap 22 immediately following the caution.
It was a great night for the team and track owner Tony Stewart. Both Bell and Schatz race for Stewart, who also owns Eldora.
"Tomorrow night's the most important part, so we'll see if we can be a little better," Schatz added.
Brad Sweet finished third.
"We're a little disappointed there. We had the lead and Bell did a great job. We lost those spots and you're never going to get them back. Those guys were good. We've got to get a little better for tomorrow. Tomorrow is when the big money is on the line."
Ian Madsen and Brian Brown rounded out the top five.
Joey Saldana was back in an Outlaws car for this special event. Driving the No. 71 that took him to Victory Lane earlier this month in the All Star Circuit of Champions.
Thursday night, he missed qualifying for the feature by one position when he crossed under the checkers fourth in his heat. Saldana advanced to the feature by winning the Last Chance Showdown and climbed to 14th in the final rundown.
Top 10 Finishers
1. Christopher Bell
2. Donny Schatz
3. Brad Sweet
4. Ian Madsen
5. Brian Brown
6. Kerry Madsen
7. Kraig Kinser
8. David Gravel
9. Daryn Pittman
10. Rico Abreu
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