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NASCAR Cup Series

Bell Rings In First Win of 2023 at Bristol Dirt Race

Christopher Bell won the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol in calm, collected fashion. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

Christopher Bell won the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol in calm, collected fashion. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The bell that rang at Bristol Motor Speedway may have not come from Sto-vo-kor, the Klingon afterworld.

However, Christopher Bell would argue that the mythological afterlife from Star Trek and Sunday night’s race are one and the same.

Starting from the fourth position for Sunday night’s 250-lap race, Bell was in position for the victory despite keeping out of harm’s way in Stages 1 and 2. Finishes of sixth and fourth showcased the Norman, Oklahoma native’s poise and patience while NASCAR Cup Series lead footers, Kyle Larson and Tyler Reddick, asserted themselves into the picture.

Like his predecessors in Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, Bell calculated his plan of attack with savvy and guile. No, he was not about to brute force his No. 20 Dewalt Power Stack Toyota Camry to be in the picture.

Instead, he was in contention, waiting for the right opportunity to strike like a shrike after its unsuspecting prey. Once the race reached its final 100 laps, Bell, who trailed Reddick for the lead, decided it was time.

In the words of Ned Jarrett, Bell illustrated that he was going to put his No. 20 car “out front if he had anything left.”

By all means, Bell, who inherited the lead by staying out while his rivals pitted for their intended, final pit stops.

Regardless if Bell took the lead with an on track pass or a pit strategy call, the 28-year-old did not relinquish the number one spot.

Like Commander Worf from multiple Star Trek series, Bell would not simply yield. The young driver was determined to tally his first win of the year.

Undoubtedly, Bell capitalized thanks to the lack of a pit stop call along with a fast No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.

Certainly, Bell faced some formidable challenges from Reddick, especially inside the final five laps. It was all for naught as far as the victory was concerned for Reddick.

Instead, Bell earned his first Bristol Night triumph with a smooth, commanding drive and a final lap caution for a backstretch crash involving Ross Chastain, Josh Berry and Daniel Suárez.

Rather than perform the accustomary burnout, Bell saluted the fans with a celebratory Polish Victory Lap first made popular by Alan Kulwicki, the 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Likewise, he acknowledged his latest victory thanks to his crew chief, Adam Stevens.

Bell and crew chief Adam Stevens are emerging as one of the top combinations in Cup. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

Bell and crew chief Adam Stevens are emerging as one of the top combinations in Cup. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

“Adam has been able to instill confidence in me by giving me fast racecars and cars that I know are going to handle good enough for me,” Bell said. “He’s probably the best leader that I’ve ever driven for, and he knows how to manage the highs and lows of a season, and he definitely can bring out the best in me.”

Reddick may have placed runner-up for the second straight year. This time, he did not spin on the final lap but still craved a Bristol Dirt race win when all was said and done.

“We definitely had a really strong SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD and Billy Scott (crew chief) and the guys really left it in my hands from my background to make the decision on what to do there strategy-wise,” Reddick said. “I kind of missed it honestly. I really thought the track was going to go away a lot faster than that so we made the decision to stay out and pit later on.

“It almost worked out and we restarted eighth or ninth, but I didn’t do a good job on the restart at the beginning of stage three and got behind Kyle (Busch) and Austin (Dillon) and those guys. I think it was the difference of being able to get the Christopher (Bell) and be able to do something. Just wish I would have had that last 20 laps back, but this is the second year in a row I’ve said that.”

Meanwhile, Austin Dillon tallied his first podium finish of the year, a result that pleased the driver of the No. 3 BREZTRI Chevrolet Camaro.

“I just have to thank SMI for all of the hard work they’ve done with this dirt racing,” Dillon said. “I don’t care what anybody says, that was an amazing show throughout the field. I felt like it was some great racing. Have to thank the good Lord above. It’s Easter and that’s what we’re really here to celebrate. But man, that was a fun time. I really wish we could have brought home the No. 3 BREZTRI Chevy into victory lane.

“We were second in both stages and getting a third-place finish was big for us. Getting the momentum rolling. I had a lot of fun out there. Just wasn’t good enough against the fence when it mattered. We needed the track to kind of go back to our run. Right there at the end, we were kind of circling the middle and the car was really good. The No. 3 BREZTRI Chevy was fast, just not enough at the end.”

Bell demonstrated his patented cool, collected demeanor at the Bristol Dirt race. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

Bell demonstrated his patented cool, collected demeanor at the Bristol Dirt race. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

Before Bell considers his efforts to contend for a second Cup race win, he has to contend against the fast Chevrolets on Sunday at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET on FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“I hope so. The Chevrolets have been super fast to start off the year,” Bell said. “And there was no doubt that we were behind them. But we’re in a really good stretch of races for our cars. If you look at Richmond, Bristol Dirt, and Martinsville, I would expect us to be really strong at.

“Then when we get back to the mile and a halves, I’m not really sure where we’re at. So with that being said, we know that there is room to improve, and hopefully that comes sooner rather than later.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers

Larson-A. Dillon-Busch-Preece-Blaney/Bell-Briscoe-Reddick-Haley-Byron

Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers

Reddick-A. Dillon-Larson-Bell-Busch/Briscoe-Truex Jr.-Blaney-Haley-Almirola

Food City Dirt Race Top 10 Finishers at Bristol

Bell-Reddick-A. Dillon-Stenhouse Jr.-Briscoe/Haley-Truex Jr.-Gilliland-Harvick-Gibbs

Editor’s Notes

Jasmine Sharpe contributed to this article directly on-site at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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