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Pit Road Misfortune Costs Bell On Emotional Day

Christopher Bell gave it everything he had on a difficult afternoon for Joe Gibbs Racing. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Christopher Bell’s 10th-place finish in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway resulted in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry completing the year third in the standings, on a very emotional day filled with a plethora of sadness felt throughout the entire garage area and beyond.

On the day of the season-ending Championship 4 Cup race, JGR announced that co-owner, Coy Gibbs, passed away in his sleep the night before.

Gibbs is the father of the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Ty Gibbs, and the son of Joe Gibbs. Although Bell didn’t become a Cup champion, first and foremost, his immediate thoughts were with his entire JGR family.

Despite the stunning and sudden tragedy, the show still went on as scheduled and Bell had a job to do under tough circumstances. Joey Logano was the class of the field all day long en route to his second Cup title.

However, it seemed like Bell might have a shot at winning it all until 45 laps to go when the caution came out for Michael McDowell spinning Alex Bowman on the backstretch. Prior to the yellow flag, Bell’s crew chief Adam Stevens tried the undercut strategy to make up time on Logano by calling the No. 20 Toyota Camry to pit road earlier than their championship rival.

Bell gained time on fresher Goodyear tires as Logano stayed out longer on worn tires. The undercut strategy paid off because Bell got closer to Logano as the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang exited the pits.

This resulted in a fierce battle between the two drivers with 58 laps remaining although Bell couldn’t complete the pass. When the field came to pit road for the final time, the No. 20 pit crew had a slow 19.8-second pit stop, which significantly hurt Bell’s track position in the final green flag run.

On the radio, Stevens told Bell his tire changer’s finger got stuck between the nut and spindle, leading to a disappointing setback that cost his team a shot at keeping up with Logano.

“Ultimately today, the best car won the championship,” Bell said. “He was really strong. Proud of our 20 group though. We fought hard, and at the end of the race – the last pit stop, or what we thought was going to be the last pit stop, we were right there battling for it.

“I’m just proud to be in this position, proud to be at Joe Gibbs Racing and race this No. 20 car. The DeWalt Camry was – we were there, and hopefully, we can come back here next year.”

The 2022 season didn’t conclude how Bell and his team envisioned, but the 27-year-old remains hopeful they can maintain this level of performance in 2023. Given the strong chemistry on the No. 20 team, Bell hopes JGR will keep the entire group of mechanics, engineers and his two-time championship-winning crew chief together for the foreseeable future.

“I feel like we have a good thing going,” Bell said. “We feel like we are right there on the brink of being there every week and being a title contender, year-in and year-out.”

Kobe Lambeth is a 2021 graduate of UNC Charlotte, who earned his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies (mass media concentration), with a double minor in Journalism and American Studies. In February 2007, he initially developed a strong passion for motorsports. His childhood dream is to work in the motorsports industry for a long time. In June 2017, his journey began as a freelance journalist and social media specialist for RockinghamNow, covering high school sports and leading a Twitter project. He was a part of expanded coverage of high school football within his local community. Through the use of Twitter, his team had a goal of significantly increasing the number of followers on multiple accounts. At The Podium Finish, he intends to provide professional motorsports coverage, focusing on series such as the NASCAR Cup Series, NTT IndyCar Series and more. He's also a Freelance Editor at NASCAR Digital Media and Multimedia Producer at GRID Network

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