SCHERERVILLE | National midget auto racing returned to Illiana Motor Speedway Friday night for the first time in a dozen years with 18-year-old Christopher Bell of Norman, Okla., capturing the 30-lap United States Auto Club Honda National Pavement Championship race.
Bell, in his Toyota-powered midget, raced into the lead at the drop of the green flag with 19 fellow drivers giving chase. Fastest qualifier Darren Hagen of Riverside, Calif., quickly moved to second place, but could not keep pace with Bell, who, at one time, had almost a full straightaway lead over Hagen.
The race on Illiana’s half-mile oval was slowed by two yellow flag caution periods, the last one coming with 28 laps complete and bunching up the field for a two-lap dash to the checkered flag. Bell was up to the task of holding off Hagen’s one last effort to take the lead and scored his first USAC pavement victory over Hagen, Kyle Hamilton, Dalton Armstrong and Kyle O’Gara.
“Pavement racing definitely kicked our butt at the beginning of the year, but I think I’m starting to figure it out,” Bell said. “The crew gave me an awesome race car. We were good right off the bat during the first hot lap session and got a good starting spot (front row) for the feature.”
Other feature winners during the evening’s action included Cooper Clouse of Ohio City, Ohio, (USAC Ignite Midgets), Al Renner of Indianapolis (Roadsters), Chris King of Kouts (Legends) and Tom Schnabel of Yorkville, Ill. (Classic Modifieds).