Connect with us

NASCAR Cup Series

Christopher Bell Takes Electrifying Third in DAYTONA 500

Christopher Bell scored a DAYTONA 500 podium finish for Joe Gibbs Racing. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A quick glance at Christopher Bell’s DAYTONA 500 lap-by-lap performance may liken to a roller coaster. In this case, it was a smooth third place finish for the Norman, Oklahoma, native, leading the Toyota contingency on Monday evening.

Starting from the fourth position by virtue of winning Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel No. 2, Bell led from Laps 9 to 30 in his No. 20 DEWALT/Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry.

Once Ryan Blaney, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion, took the lead on Lap 31, the field started to plot their fuel mileage strategy. In the midst of the unprecedented fuel saving tactics, Bell dropped back to a 30th place finish in Stage 1. More topsy turvy pit strategies by the lead pack relegated the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to a 20th place result in Stage 2.

Things got serious for the final 70 laps of “The Great American Race” for the two-time Championship 4 racer. Smooth, patient and unassuming, Bell returned inside the top 10 in the final moments of the 500-miler, poised to attack for the win against the Hendrick Motorsports efforts of William Byron, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott.

However, a Lap 192, 23-car accident in Turn 3 changed the complexity of the race for many contenders. Bell was among those involved in “The Big One” although he had minimal damage compared to those whose efforts ended like Blaney, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the race’s defending winner, Brad Keselowski, Todd Gilliland and Daniel Suárez.

Following the 15 minute and 27 second red flag period, Bell found himself in sixth before the Lap 197 restart. Opting to restart on the outside of Row 8, Bell gave hardy draft bumps to Alex Bowman heading to the start/finish line stripe at the dogleg on the final lap.

Christopher Bell was able to drive through the Lap 192, Turn 3 carnage to tally a third in the DAYTONA 500. (Photo: Cornnell Chu | The Podium Finish)

Then, contact between Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric ended the DAYTONA 500 under caution, resulting in Byron emerging victorious while Bowman placed second and Bell taking a third place result for a second straight year.

All things considered, Bell counted his blessings, starting his year similarly with 34 points versus the 35 he netted in the 2023 running. Beyond the similarities, the versatile racer felt a bit blessed with his on track position.

“Honestly, we got really fortunate,” Bell said. “With those two wrecks, you know. The race was not playing out our way at the end. And after the green flag stop, I was pretty much in the back. But being on the bottom lane, I was able to squeeze by that last wreck.”

Naturally, Bell was pleased with his great result which has him ranked third in the championship standings with 44 points. In spite of the result, he hopes his No. 20 team, led by crew chief Adam Stevens, can find more consistent speed in their next races at the superspeedway, particularly with Atlanta this Sunday and Talladega in a few months.

“I don’t know, we had an awesome Interstate Batteries DEWALT Camry,” he said. “We showed a lot of pace between the Duel and the early part of the race. When we had track position, we were fast. But I don’t know, didn’t go our way and we need to study it.”

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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

More in NASCAR Cup Series