Christopher Bell continues to be put through an emotional wringer in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
“It’s definitely been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows pretty back-to-back-to-back,” Bell admitted. “But with that being said, I feel like I’ve always done a really good job throughout my career of managing my emotions whenever it comes time to perform at the level that I have to perform at.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver admitted to being down in the dumps and deflated before the Charlotte Roval race. But after rising to the must-win situation that he was in if he wanted to advance to the third round, Bell drew fresh momentum at having his championship chances alive.
Seven days later, however, came another low in Las Vegas. Collected in the mess between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson off Turn 4 on lap 95, Bell was knocked out of the race. He is again last on the playoff grid.
“I’m going to go into Homestead this week with the same mentality that regardless of where we’re at in the standings or what our position is, I’m going to have to perform at my best,” said Bell. “It’s another opportunity to win a race, and that’s what I want to do.”
Wednesday morning, Bell was starting to “feel better” again after admitting to being incredibly sad Sunday and Monday.
“Just sad and disappointed because we had it in the grasp of our hands [or] at least we had a good finish at Vegas well within reach,” he said. “We did everything that we needed to do to put ourselves in position to go race for a championship in Phoenix and that’s gone now. It’s going to be very, very difficult to get there. I feel more optimistic now that time has passed, and I feel good about Homestead and competing for a win at Homestead. But I was definitely very sad. Very, very sad.”
Despite what some might read into when it comes to his result sheets, Bell has believed all year his No. 20 team is capable of competing for the Cup Series championship in the finale. It was a point he reiterated in the aftermath of Sunday’s crash, while expressing disappointment that he might not get to because he was caught up in something that was not of his own doing.
Bell did reveal that Wallace apologized to him directly on the flight home from Las Vegas. Monday, Wallace also apologized and directly addressed Bell’s team in the debrief between Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing.
Bell isn’t completely writing off his chances. Although last on the playoff grid, he is 23 points below a transfer spot. And his confidence is higher going into another intermediate oval track at Homestead than it was as the Roval.
In the first round, Bell had a 4.0 average finish. Winning again to advance certainly has to be considered a realistic prospect, and he feels his team has been doing everything they need to do so.
“It’s very, very disappointing because the playoffs started off really well and even at the end of the regular season, we were performing at a level that was capable of racing for a championship,” Bell said. “If we could just get things to go our way, I feel like we would be in a really good spot and on our way to competing for a championship. Which we still are. We’re not out of it yet. But I feel like my cars have been really fast, and we’ve been doing everything right. Just have to keep after it.”