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NASCAR Cup Series

Bell Earns Pole For Cup Series Race at Auto Club

(Photo: Kevin Ritchie | The Podium Finish)

FONTANA, Calif. — After persistent rain and snow, NASCAR canceled practice and qualifying at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday. Based on the qualifying metric, Christopher Bell will sit on the pole for Sunday’s Pala Casino 400.

Bell finished third in last week’s Daytona 500. The metric is determined by both the driver’s and the owner’s previous finish, owner points rank and fastest lap. The entire starting lineup can be found here.

“I probably would have rather had practice just to know what we had,” Bell said in a teleconference Saturday. “Winning the poll by the formula deal was pretty gratifying, too.”

2023 begins Bell’s third season with Joe Gibbs Racing after making an improbable run to the Championship 4 last fall. He won a pair of must-win races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Martinsville Speedway while facing elimination.

Bell is part of a new-look lineup for JGR this season. While Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin have returned, Ty Gibbs has been elevated to the Cup Series to replace Kyle Busch.

The 28-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma is hoping to become the leader of that pack.

“All four of us at JGR have our strengths and weaknesses,” Bell said. “All four teams have an equal opportunity to run well, and it’s up to the drivers, the crew chiefs and the mechanics to figure out who that leader, so to speak, is going to be.”

Bell is looking to turn around his misfortunes at Auto Club in the final race of the two-mile configuration. In 2020, a jack bolt went through the radiator, resulting in a 38th-place finish with Leavine Family Racing. In 2022, Bell overheated and blew up in Stage 2 after he reported losing water.

On the Xfinity Series side, Bell has a pair of top-five finishes.

“I’ve really enjoyed this racetrack, but it doesn’t love me for some reason,” Bell said. “It’s really slick, high tire wear. You can move around and run different lines.”

But Bell is fine with the impending short-track reconfiguration.

“I hope that the new configuration, the short track, gives us options,” he said. “I don’t want a LA Coliseum, preferably not another Martinsville-type racetrack where it’s all following each other.”

Sunday’s race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The rescheduled NASCAR Xfinity Series race will follow at 8 p.m. ET on FS2.

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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