Christopher Bell doesn’t believe it’s for him to say whether the 2022 season was a breakout year that should serve as notice for the NASCAR Cup Series to take him more seriously. Results, for Bell, speak louder than words, and he is just hoping that what he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team accomplished last season is the tip of the iceberg.
“I hope that it’s just the beginning,” Bell said of the multiple wins he scored. “I feel like our 20 group is capable of winning a lot of races in 2023 and hopefully, we can carry that into 2024 and ’25.”
Bell’s three wins were a personal milestone. Not only were two of them walk-off wins that kept his playoff chances alive — at the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville Speedway — but it was the first time in three seasons as a full-time Cup Series driver that Bell won multiple races.
“It was cool,” Bell said. “I remember being in the Martinsville press room talking about those races … they don’t feel like race wins because the playoffs overshadow the win so big that all you’re focusing on is we moved to the next round. That’s all we did.
“At the Charlotte road course, we didn’t win a race, we just moved to the next round. Same thing with Martinsville. I felt like, in the moment, I didn’t win a race, I just advanced to the next round. But whenever you have time to reminisce and look at it, I have a Martinsville clock in my house, so that’s pretty cool.”
Nothing will change for Bell’s team going into next season. Bell will work with the same crew chief, Adam Stevens, mechanics, and engineers that he won with and made the championship race in Phoenix last season.
As others debate how big a season it was for the 27-year-old, Bell acknowledges that it was one in which his team grew “as a whole.” Not having practice and qualifying in 2021 hindered Bell’s growth and slowed the team from honing in on what they needed in their race cars.
Even the brief sessions NASCAR implemented in 2022, with most of the practice sessions being 20 minutes, were a big deal and went a long way. It gave Bell and Stevens a chance to understand each other better.
“The biggest piece of that is having confidence in my equipment, having confidence in my car,” said Bell. “I hope I improved from 2021 to 2022, but I do feel like I could have performed well in 2021 if we had the opportunity, me and Adam, to get on the same page and him give me what I needed to be successful earlier in our outing. In 2022, starting off the year at California and Vegas, those were two really big learning curves because we were able to make changes to the car, and I was able to show Adam if he gives what I need in the car, then I can be successful and be fast.
“Whenever it came down to the playoff races, at the end of the day, I knew going to mile-and-a-halfs, I could hold my foot down and almost run wide-open, and the car wasn’t going to spin out because it was too tight. And I absolutely had confidence in my team that they were going to give me the balance in the car I needed.”
A slow start gave way to Bell finishing the season with multiple wins, a career-high in top-10 finishes, and his first Championship 4 appearance. Showing they can start the year off just as strong is the first thing on the 2023 agenda.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” said Bell.