Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Christopher Bell Rockets to Pole at Kansas Speedway

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell is all smiles after winning the pole for Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If there is a driver who could use a break, Christopher Bell will gladly accept it, even if it is a Kit Kat bar.

Following a four-race top 10 streak, including a win at Phoenix Raceway, the 29-year-old Norman, Oklahoma, native is in the midst of another four-race run. However, it is of the difficult variety, placing 17th or worse in the past month’s races.

Dropping from sixth to 17th in the points standings, Bell needed a pick me up for his No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota Camry XSE team. On Saturday afternoon, he found it with his first Busch Light Pole Award of this year, his second consecutive pole at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, and third overall at this venue.

Surprisingly, for a driver capable of winning races in bunches, the 2023 Championship 4 finalist is focused on nabbing a good finish with a car in one piece.

“We’ve got a great starting spot and we’re in prime position to win some stage points,” Bell said. “But 267 laps is a long time and I fully believe that we can have a great race tomorrow and definitely believe I can be talking to all of you guys in 24 hours after the race too.

“It just all has to come together and honestly at this point, I’m not looking for a race win, guys. I’m literally looking to see the checkered flag. And I know my car has great capabilities. If I just see the checkered flag with a clean car, we’re going to have a solid day and that’s what we’re after.”

For a driver who can typically be seen with a smile at the track, he has persevered in a trying time. In Bell’s case, he does not need to search far for motivation with his Adam Stevens-led team and the arsenal cars at the Joe Gibbs Racing campus.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell was 11th fastest in Saturday’s practice and 10-lap consecutive run at Kansas. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it’s been tough, man,” he said. “The last 4four weeks have been, really, really bad to say the least. So, to stay motivated, it is refreshing knowing that I’m coming to the racetrack and have fast cars every single week.

“Each week, we know that it could turn around at any moment. So that’s really good. It’s been frustrating that it’s taken so long, but I have no doubt that it could be this weekend. It could be next weekend, but it will turn around at some point.”

The beauty of competing in NASCAR’s Playoffs era is that the margin for errors can be overcome with wins at opportunistic moments. Bell can take comfort he has the win at Phoenix in March, a victory that presently locks him into the 16-driver Playoffs field looking to battle in September.

Like Logano and the Ford Performance camp, Bell and his Toyota Racing stablemates are adapting to a new car with their Camry XSE. The hammerhead nose has been helpful at the bullrings of NASCAR as Bell offered.

“It seems like the short track stuff has been a little bit better,” he shared. “Intermediates, I don’t know that we can say have been an improvement, but certainly not a loss. And then, short tracks and road courses seem to be where we’ve made our gains.”

Gains can be made at Kansas, as well, for Bell and company. For starters, Bell has the pole, which allows him to enjoy clean air if he gets off to a clean leap once the 12th round of the season kicks off on Sunday afternoon.

Moreover, Bell, like most of the field, enjoys racing at Kansas Speedway, a track that is not all about follow-the-leader spectacles. Rather, there are options for everyone to make headway, particularly on long green flag runs.

“It’s just a track that you can pass it if you’re good in general,” he said. “You can move around, you can turn the top, you can turn the bottom. And whenever you have the different lanes, it makes passing as easy as it’s gonna be for this car. So, you know, it really is kinda the track that this car is made for.”

Last year, Bell crashed in the AdventHealth 400, placing 36th, and eighth in the Hollywood Casino 400. Overall, he has two top fives and five top 10s in eight career starts, tallying an average finish of 15.1.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell might be smiling not only with being a Yahoo! sponsored driver, but with a shot to snap his four-race rut. (Photo: Patrick Vallely | The Podium Finish)

With two years of Next Gen data and experience, Bell recognized that the margin for error has narrowed significantly. It drudges up the question as to whether or not the driver truly factors into the equation.

Even with the close margins across the field, Bell points out how drivers can still factor into the grand scheme of things.

“It should be a lot,” Bell said. “If we keep making the cars more and more similar, then the drivers are the only thing that’s not the same. So, you know, from that aspect, I think the the the driver skill set is very important. But on the flip side, all the cars are so similar that we’ve heard other drivers talk about optimizing the car.

“And now all of us are are finding ourselves migrating to a similar driving style. So, some tracks and some races are better than others, but, it certainly feels like the parity is large right now, and there’s a lot of competitive guys.”

Editor’s Notes

Harry Loomis contributed to this article on site from Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NASCAR Cup Series