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Christopher Bell Starts 4th at WWTR, Pursues 3rd Win of 2024

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell rolls off from the fourth position for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR). (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

MADISON, Ill. — Christopher Bell seems to be turning the corner after enduring a tough spring stretch in April. Entering Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway (WWTR), he has that winning feeling from last Sunday night’s rain shortened Coca-Cola 600 victory at Charlotte.

Moments such as Bell’s crown jewel race win last Sunday night have been a bright spot in a feast or famine year. The 29-year-old Norman, Oklahoma, native understands the significance of his latest victory and eighth career NASCAR Cup Series win.

“It means a lot,” Bell said. “There are certain races on the schedule that are a really big deal if you can win. Charlotte being one of them. Daytona, Indy, Darlington. So winning the Coca-Cola 600 was a really big deal, a big accomplishment. And hopefully, I can go back there next year and actually win a 600-mile race.”

Last Sunday night’s victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a welcome reprieve from an up-and-down stretch of races. Namely, the two-time Championship 4 finalist was in a four-race skid from Martinsville to Dover, dropping from sixth to 17th in the championship standings.

Bell’s win at Charlotte boosted him to 11th in the standings. More importantly, he has another fast No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry XSE.

On Saturday’s combined practice session, Bell posted the eighth fastest time and fifth quickest in a 10-lap consecutive average run. He backed up his practice performance by qualifying fourth for the Enjoy Illinois 300 at this 1.25-mile egg shaped intermediate.

For Bell, it proved indelible with firmly securing a Playoff spot and challenging for another Championship 4 fight come November at Phoenix Raceway. Securing maximum points counts during the regular season, no matter if it’s Charlotte or World Wide Technology Raceway.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell has one of the fastest cars for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“Yeah, it’s important,” Bell observed. “We’re going into the summer stretch. Lots of points on the table to go for the the Playoffs. And we need to capitalize on that. So, I’m bound and determined to keep it going.”

Since 2022, Cup has made the 1.25-mile intermediate track into an annual staple in early June. By far, Bell enjoys coming to the St. Louis-market track given its passionate fanbase.

“I absolutely love coming here to St. Louis,” he shared. “We don’t go to a racetrack on the schedule that’s more welcoming and excited about NASCAR than St. Louis. So that means a lot to us in the industry. And we’re thankful that we have this awesome venue on our schedule.”

Surprisingly, for Bell, this NASCAR staple has been enigmatic at times for him. Finishing ninth in 2022 and 11th last year, good enough for an average finish of 10.0, he likes his chances at this and any venue.

“What’s interesting is I haven’t had two good Cup races here, but I have won a Truck race here,” Bell illustrated. “So it’s just about your strengths and weaknesses, where your cars are good at, where your cars aren’t very good at. And this has been one where we just haven’t hit it in the last two years.

“So, I have no doubt that we could hit it this this week and we could win again on Sunday. And then it wouldn’t surprise me one bit, but that’s one thing that I definitely take pride in is the fact that we can win at pretty much any track. And if I drive the car right, the setup is right and the pit crew does well, we can be a contender everywhere we go.”

No matter how Bell may perceive his respectable track record at World Wide Technology Raceway, a good driver-crew chief dynamic still counts in today’s NASCAR Cup Series scene. Despite the high emotions that drivers may experience with their crew chief, Bell would pick Adam Stevens to battle alongside him each weekend.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a work in progress, I think, as every driver crew chief pairing is,” Bell observed. “But certainly Adam and I have our good moments and our bad moments. He’s a very savvy veteran of a crew chief, and there’s no one else I’d rather go race with than him.”

On Saturday morning, track conditions were dictated by overcast conditions. For Sunday afternoon’s race, it will sunny and in the mid 80s which may result in a slicker track surface.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell is willing to go to battle alongside Adam Stevens on a weekly basis. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“I’m sure it changes for Adam. I can’t speak on the changes outside of that, because that’s not really my department,” he admitted. “But certainly the grip level that we have today is not going to be what we have [for Sunday].”

Beyond the fight for maximum mechanical grip, Bell points how the Cup cars’ configurations at tracks like World Wide Technology Raceway can throw teams in for a loop. Being further up front makes life a lot easier with the aerodynamic wars of today’s Cup cars.

“Probably this rules package,” Bell said. “This rules package does really good on the multi-groove intermediates where you get big draft runs. The speeds are a little bit down here compared to the intermediates.

“So the draft runs aren’t as big. And it makes passing a little bit tougher. And it makes clean air even more important. So I would say just just that makes it a track position race.”

Given how track position is the name of the game, as seen in Cup’s first two races at World Wide Technology Raceway, perhaps Bell’s first win of 2024 provided valuable experiences besides dominating at Phoenix Raceway.

Christopher Bell

With two wins secured, Christopher Bell is focused on continuing his winning ways ahead of Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Photo: Josh James | The Podium Finish)

“I honestly would say Phoenix,” he remarked. “I think the pavement is very similar to Phoenix, just the way that the track rubbers up. There’s a little bit less tire fall off here than Phoenix, but I feel like the grip level is very similar.”

Even with similarities to the 1-mile track in Avondale, Arizona, Bell points out how he and his competitors face a different rules package for Sunday’s 240-lap race.

“I think so but it hasn’t been in the past,” he said. “And it’s a different rules package than what we race at Phoenix. So if this was on the same rules package as Phoenix, I think it would be very, very similar. But the fact that we’re on two different packages makes it a little bit tougher.”

Editor’s Notes

Harry Loomis contributed to this article onsite from World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.

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.

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