Stephen Bell picked up his first win in more than a year when he defeated Arthur Kohn in the final round of the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown in Topeka. Bell, the winner of the 2018 season opener in Gainesville, drove to low elapsed time of the event in the final with a 7.908 and needed most of it after Kohn left first, and held his own with 7.951. Both finalists drove COPO Camaro entries that are powered by engines built by former Pro Stock racer Greg Stanfield.
“This is a miracle,” said Bell. “To go from not qualifying [at the most recent event in Richmond] to winning is fantastic. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we made about 40 test runs to get this thing fixed. It was frustrating because we knew we had a good car. My wife’s birthday was yesterday and she’seen mad at me all weekend, but she’s not mad at me anymore. This Wally [trophy] is for her.
“Archie [Kohn] is our best friend out here and our teammate,” Bell said. “To win that race by 13-thousandths is a tribute to how wonderful the Stanfield team is. I’m just honored to be a part of it.”
The Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties featured the hottest weather conditions of the year for drivers in Factory Stock, and that presented an additional challenge for crew chiefs, who had to moderate power outputs in order to get down the track. Bell struggled early and was just 12th quickest after qualifying with an 8.112, well behind the pace set by low qualifier Chris Holbrook, who wheeled his Cobra Jet Mustang to an 8.024.
There were several notable upsets in the first round and Bell was responsible for one of them when he took out points leader and former Pro Stock driver Drew Skillman. Both cars spun the tires, but Bell was able to recover more quickly than Skillman and won with an off-pace 8.647. A dramatic weather change on Sunday helped make life easier for Factory Stock teams and Bell was able to find his groove with a 7.997 to beat Joe Welch’s Dodge Challenger DragPak and he followed with an impressive win against Pro Stock points leader Bo Butner’s Summit Cobra Jet, 7.950 to 7.97.
Kohn also had reason to celebrate after his best performance of the season. The Texas-based racer won the second event of the 2018 season in Charlotte and then went to the final of the next event in Bristol but had struggled since. Kohn made his way to the final with wins against Jesse Alexandra, low qualifier Chris Holbrook, and Ryan Priddy in the Mountain View Racing COPO Camaro. Kohn’s win against Holbrook was particularly impressive since he left first and drove to a convincing 7.97 to 8.03 victory.