Christopher Bell had a quiet but successful first weekend as a NASCAR Cup Series driver.
“It’s been a change of pace that’s for sure,” said Bell of his new surroundings.
Saturday afternoon, Bell climbed aboard a Cup Series car for the first time for two Daytona 500 pre-qualifying practices sessions. Sunday afternoon, Bell was ninth quickest in single-car qualifying in the No. 95 Procore Toyota for Leavine Family Racing. The Oklahoman will participate in the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel on Thursday to earn his official starting spot for the Daytona 500.
“It’s crazy — just the number of people here already, and the race isn’t even until next week,” Bell exclaimed. “It’s different, but it’s really enjoyable, and it’s really cool to see the caliber and competitiveness of this garage. It’s definitely unlike anything else.”
The 25-year-old moves into the premier series after two full seasons in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Bell won 16 times in 74 races, although he came up short of capturing a championship with finishes of fourth (2018) and third (2019) in the standings.
Going back further, Bell ran 54 races in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series between 2015-18, winning seven races. And Bell did earn a championship in that series, in 2017.
No one was surprised by Bell’s arrival in the Cup Series. Immediately successful on his national series debut in 2015, and as a member of the Toyota family, he has had the support and resources behind him to land a quality ride. LFR’s alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Cup Series this year will be akin to what Furniture Row Racing once had with JGR.
Bell is only one member of a talented 2020 Cup Series rookie class, lining up alongside Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing) and Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing). Other ROY contenders are John Hunter Nemechek (Front Row Motorsports), Brennan Poole (Premium Motorsports), and Quin Houff (StarCom Racing).
All eyes will be on Bell’s Cup Series debut in the 62nd annual Daytona 500.
“It’s really cool,” said Bell. “The Daytona 500 is arguably number two in the world in motorsports — maybe even number one, depending on who you ask. It’s really cool to be a part of it.
“As a kid you never really see these moments happening. The fact that I’m racing in the Daytona 500 … I never would have dreamed that as a kid. So, here I am and I’m trying to soak it all in and make the most of it.”