An emotional and perspective-changing day at Phoenix for Bell

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An emotional and perspective-changing day at Phoenix for Bell


An emotional and perspective-changing day at Phoenix for Bell


Christopher Bell had to go through a wide range of emotions one more time Sunday at Phoenix Raceway as he competed for a NASCAR Cup Series championship on the heels of learning about the passing of Coy Gibbs.

“You wake up first thing this morning and are super excited and thrilled with life and where you’re at, and the opportunity given to you,” Bell said of the day. “To receive news like that a couple of hours before you get in the car is extremely tough. It just really kind of puts it in perspective that what we’re doing here is not the big picture for sure.

“I’m just thinking of Joe. I just can’t imagine what Joe is going through and the entire Gibbs family. That’s the important piece.”

Gibbs passed away in his sleep after celebrating with the organization and his family following his son Ty’s Xfinity Series championship. He was 49 years old.

“That was an experience like I’ve never gone through in my entire life,” Bell said being informed before the race. “In that moment, you don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, and you don’t know if you should get in the race car and race (or) if you shouldn’t race.

“Myself and Denny (Hamlin) and I think the other JGR drivers were all in the same boat. We just didn’t know what to do. Then Dave Alpern actually came back to the racetrack right before we left for driver intros, and he told us that we need to go out there and race, and that’s what we did. Definitely just an incredible twist of emotion and a perspective change for sure. You think that this is the big picture, and then whenever you get news like that, you realize that it’s a small picture in the grand scheme of things.”

In the finale, Bell and his No. 20 put up a fight until a late pit stop took them out of contention. He started 17th and ran as high as fifth in the final stage.

Bell was chasing Joey Logano, who dominated the day, when the final caution came out on lap 268 and sent the field down pit road for the final time. The slow pit stop was the result of a crew member getting his finger stuck between the lug nut and the spindle.

“The last thing we want is an injury on the last race of the year, so I hope he’s OK,” Bell said. “It just wasn’t meant to be, and that’s about all you can say.”

Two improbable must-wins qualified Bell for the Championship 4, which was his first appearance. It was a season in which he won multiple races for the first time, earned his first (four) poles, and improved in every statistical category.

“I think the season was successful,” he said. “To get to the final four is what every driver in NASCAR’s goals are. I’m very proud of that effort. With 40 or 50 (laps) to go, the last green flag pit stop, we put ourselves in a position to race for it. You can’t ask for much more than that.

“I’m looking towards next year. I think we have the potential to be stronger yet, and certainly, we have room to improve at Phoenix. I’m very content with where we ended the season and proud of the effort on this No. 20 car. I’m excited about the future with Joe Gibbs Racing.”