The 2017 Craftsman Truck Series champion is making a return for the race weekend at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Christopher Bell will pursue his eighth career win in the series while joining a new team.
Hattori Racing Enterprises, the team that fields Tyler Ankrum’s No. 16 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, announced the news on March 17. HRE confirmed that it will bring back the No. 61 Toyota so that Bell can make his 55th career start. He will help kick off a packed weekend at the historic track, which also features the Cup Series All-Star Race.
Hattori Racing Enterprises has primarily been a one-truck operation since making its debut in the series in 2013. Drivers such as Brett Moffitt, Austin Hill, Jesse Little, Ryan Truex, and Ankrum have all made starts. Moffitt, in particular, won the 2018 Truck Series championship.
The 2022 season is the lone exception. HRE expanded to two full-time entries with Ankrum controlling the No. 16 and Chase Purdy controlling the No. 61. Purdy ultimately left HRE for Kyle Busch Motorsports after the season, which led to the team going back to only one full-time entry.
Prior to the race weekend, select Truck Series and Cup Series drivers will head to North Wilkesboro Speedway for a tire test. Reigning champion Zane Smith, defending Rookie of the Year Corey Heim, and Carson Hocevar will represent the Truck Series on March 20. Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher, and Tyler Reddick will represent the Cup Series on March 21.
Bell’s Last Start Featured a Mechanical Issue
Bell, who has made all of his previous Truck Series starts with Kyle Busch Motorsports, has not competed in the series since the 2018 season. His last start took place at Bristol Motor Speedway as he drove the No. 51 Toyota Tundra while replacing Harrison Burton (illness).
Bell started on the pole and led 31 laps, but he ended the day 28th and 16 laps behind race-winner Johnny Sauter. The reason for the finish was a power steering failure with roughly 40 laps remaining.
Bell now has another opportunity to contend for the win in a Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. He will join HRE while making his first-ever start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, and he will continue the pursuit of his first Truck Series win on a short track.
Another Cup Series Driver Joins the Entry List
Bell will not be the only championship contender to join the lineup at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Another NASCAR Cup Series driver will take over a Chevrolet Silverado while pulling double duty at the historic track.
William Byron, who won seven races with Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016, will return to his former team after the offseason switch to Team Chevy. He will take over the No. 51 while HendrickCars.com serves as his primary partner. He will kick off his All-Star weekend by trying to win his eighth career Truck Series race.
The trip to North Wilkesboro Speedway is actually the third Truck Series race on Byron’s schedule. He will take over the No. 51 Chevrolet Silverado at Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway (dirt).
Byron does not have Truck Series wins at these tracks, but he will have the opportunity to pursue this goal during his three-race stint with Kyle Busch Motorsports.