Bell's Cup playoff run takes first hit at Texas after tire woes

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Bell's Cup playoff run takes first hit at Texas after tire woes


Bell's Cup playoff run takes first hit at Texas after tire woes


Christopher Bell is feeling the heat in more ways than one after crashing out of Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Under a hot Texas sun, Bell suffered two tire issues with the second one ending his day on lap 136. His Joe Gibbs Racing team could not fix his car in the allotted 10 minutes of the damage vehicle policy, resulting in their first DNF of the playoffs.

The second incident occurred in Turn 4 when Bell spun and hit the wall with the rear of his Toyota and then the right front. He was running seventh.

Bell had felt no pressure in the Round of 16 with an impressive 4.0 average finish while putting his name in the conversation of a contender. He finished no worse than fifth in the first round.

Having been seeded seventh on the playoff grid to begin the second round, Bell will be in a hole for the next two races. He entered Texas four points above the cutline.

“Just the second right rear blown of the day; that was disappointing,” Bell said. “I’m in a pretty bad spot now.”

Talladega Superspeedway is next on the schedule. Had he left Texas with a decent finish, Bell and his team had already decided they were going to play it conservatively at Talladega. That no longer appears to be an option.

“It makes our decision easy on how to play Talladega,” said Bell. “We were hoping to come out of here good and be able to ride around and just survive Talladega. We are going to have to race and get some stage points and be up front all day.”

Bell doesn’t feel like he’s in a must-win situation but said Talladega is going to be tough. His approach now has to be roll the dice before going to the Charlotte Roval for the cut race.

“Roval, I think we will be all right,” Bell said. “Road courses haven’t been our strength, but we have been good at a couple of them. I don’t know if we are going to be able to get out of this points hole, but we will give it our best.”

The first tire issue that struck Bell occurred on lap 78 when the right rear went down in Turns 1 and 2, but he hung on to the car and caught the caution, only having to serve a penalty for pitting before pit road was open.

Most importantly, Bell stayed on the lead lap. He’d regained his track position before the second issue.

“I would get a slight vibration seconds…before the tire went,” Bell said. “When it happened on the straightaway, I was able to get it slowed down before Turn 1, but the second one happened right in the middle of the turn.

“Very disappointing weekend. I was optimistic when they dropped the green flag. I had a pretty poor Saturday but felt like we had a lot of speed in our Rheem Camry to make a day out of it, but unfortunately, tires didn’t work our way.”