Christopher Bell, in his breakout season, faces a must-win in Charlotte on the road

by Bob Bocras
NASCAR FOX Sports writer

Christopher Bell He knew very early in the season that he had a car and speed to be reckoned with.

His final results didn’t necessarily show the speed, but what he felt in the car made him think people should view him as a potential threat in 2022. However, for the rest of the regular season, he’s been noticed but maybe not even thinking about winning.

“The third or fourth race,” Bale said two weeks ago about the time he knew he could fight for the title. “Look at California [in February]We did really well, and we were about 10th in the car.

“Then we went to Vegas and won #1 and led the race until we lost the lead on the pit road. Even from those races, we were showing the ability to perform well and be the title contender.”

Christopher Bell talks about the speed his team has shown all season

Christopher Bell talks about the speed his team has shown all season

Christopher Bell thought his team had championship speed long before they were recognized by the rest of the athletes.

The 27-year-old is only in his third year in the cup competition and his second in the playoffs. Entering round two of qualifying two weeks ago, he was one of only two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers remaining in the post-season and certainly the most consistent, finishing five of the top 5 of the previous 10 races.

But two flat tires in Texas, where his day ended well before halfway, and a quick penalty kick hitting a pit road in Talladega put Bell in a tough spot. Sitting 33 points behind the pieces with only Charlotte Motor Speedway (“Ruval”) left on the tour. With two great runs, he might have a chance to get ahead of the points, but he’s pretty much faced with a must-have situation.

It’s going to be tough, said Bale, who finished eighth in the Roval qualifiers last year and 24th in 2020.

This weekend will be the most difficult task in Bale’s Cup campaign so far. But no matter what happens, he has solidified himself as a driver who will compete for championships in the future.

He knows situations of stress. He fought epic battles with the 2021 Cup Champion Kyle Larson In racing cars, including the prestigious Chili Bowl midget nationals.

“I’ve always known his talent and his abilities,” said Larson, who also had his fights and feuds with Bill in NASCAR. “I was surprised that it took him as long as he should always be in the top three to the top five because, like I said, I’ve raced with him longer than anyone else in the field, and I know the potential he has.

“It’s great to see him run up front – another dirt guy competing for a championship… I always enjoy seeing the dirty guys win, especially from my neck in the woods in a dirt race.”

Christopher Bell in a crash in Texas

Christopher Bell in a crash in Texas

Christopher Bell said he has no indication his team will have tire problems in Texas and is discussing how the crash will affect him moving forward.

Bell has one of the best crew chiefs in the garage in Adam Stevens, who has won two cup titles Kyle Bush. For the first time in 2021, they didn’t have much of a chance to work together on the track except for the races, where NASCAR was only practicing and qualifying for eight events due to the pandemic.

This year, when they get at least 20 minutes of training each week, they have demonstrated what they have learned about each other after nearly two years of racing together.

“I know I have the right guy in the pit box, that’s for sure,” Bell said. “We’ve been getting along really well, really since the next generation came along. [this year].

“Last year we had less practice, if no training, so it was hard for us to get to the same page as much as I needed in the car to perform well.”

Stevens worked with Bell on how to handle not winning, knowing when to cross boundaries and knowing when not to. Cup racing, especially in the playoffs, is often all about maximizing the day.

Bill admits, “You’ve been famous for winning or going bankrupt,” and Stevens has helped him make the most of what he’s getting.

“He doesn’t like to be defeated, which most competitors at this level do,” Stevens said. “I know I am. You have to balance that. You don’t want it to drag you down.”

This year, they achieved that goal most of the time. After a top 10 in his first five races, Bale had a top 10 in the top 5 in the next 24 events.

“You can’t win every race, and sometimes it’s not smart to push yourself to do that, depending on where you’re running and what you’re up against. Keep the end goal in mind,” Stevens said.

“He did a great job running to reduce mistakes, take advantage of others’ mistakes and keep the train going.”

Christopher Bell talks about adapting to the playoffs

Christopher Bell talks about adapting to the playoffs

Christopher Bell has always been a win or fail racer, but this year, he’s learned the nuances of playoff racing.

But now, Bill may actually need to take a “win or fail” attitude. In the previous two races on the track, he drove 17 laps before finishing 12th at Indianapolis and 8th at Watkins Glen.

If he’s going to win, he’ll have to be deliberate in his moves and take calculated risks. Bale took one trophy win in his career on the road track – at Daytona last year.

“The Ruval worries me, but I would say we were the best car on the road in Toyotas,” Stevens said before starting this tour. We tried a few different things in [Indianapolis] It was noticeably better.

“He’s definitely more than capable of road training sessions, and so on [it’s] Just a matter of getting the car to do what it has to do to be fast.”

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What to watch

road racer joy hand He made a great point about the Charlotte trail on the road earlier this week when he said there are more walls around this trail than a regular road track.

When the vehicle’s shape derails on the road, it often has grass or gravel to salvage. But on the Charlotte track, most of the track has walls on both sides.

This means that drivers cannot get out of shape. They can’t completely blow a corner, or they’ll take damage.

Granted, the next generation car appears to handle damage better than the other cars. But no one is going to want to know how much on Sunday, especially not those battling to advance to the next round of playoffs.

think out loud

Conor Daly He makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend Marco Andretti He will make his NASCAR debut in Xfinity series.

Some will say that during qualifying, a driver with little or no car-buying experience should not be approved to take part in a series for the first time.

But this appears to be true. Both drivers have extensive racing experience, and both are accustomed to making decisions at high speeds thanks to full time IndyCar expertise. (Daly also started two trucks and starts the Xfinity in his career.) Their presence may bring additional racing interest from the fan bases they’ve built in IndyCar racing.

Can they influence the playoffs? Certainly – just as any driver who is not among the qualifying drivers can influence who advances.

If NASCAR agrees for drivers to race in non-playoff races, the qualifying itself should not be a barrier to entry.

social lights

they said that

“Shocker”. – Rodney Childers, in a tweet, after NASCAR announced that four body part modification races have been suspended

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He’s spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @Popocrasand subscribe to Newsletter from FOX Sports NASCAR with Bob Pokras.

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