Bell glad to finally be the center of attention after latest Cup win

Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Bell glad to finally be the center of attention after latest Cup win


Bell glad to finally be the center of attention after latest Cup win


There shouldn’t be the need for a reminder this week, but just in case, here it is: Christopher Bell won Sunday on the Bristol dirt.

Bell understands the wisecrack. The last two wins the Joe Gibbs Racing driver scored were overshadowed by late-race antics, making the victorious Bell an afterthought. There was the Cole Custer race manipulation at the Charlotte Roval in October. Then there was Ross Chastain’s wall ride at Martinsville Speedway a few weeks later.

But Sunday night was all about Bell.

“It’s cool,” Bell said of this one not being overshadowed. “It’s funny you bring that up because it does seem like that happens quite often, but I still won the race no matter what happened. Hopefully, I can win many more in my career, so that’s not an issue.”

The first win of the season for Bell and the No. 20 team should not have come as a surprise. No, not because the series competed on dirt, which always makes Bell a favorite.

As the NASCAR Cup Series hits the one-quarter mark of the season, Bell and company have quietly put together one of the best starts of any team. Bell now leads the points standings with six top-10 finishes through eight races and an average finish of 10.6.

“We’re doing everything really well,” Bell said. “Adam (Stevens, crew chief) is giving me great race cars and the cars drive really well, but we haven’t been able to control the race.”

Bell feels his No. 20 Toyota has been strong all season, but qualifying issues have prevented him from showing it consistently. Rusty Jarrett/Motorsport Images

Bell not only leads the series in the championship standings, but his six top-10 finishes are the most in the series. So are the five top-five finishes Bell has.

But the controlling of the race part comes from stage wins and laps led. Although he’s shown speed, Bell does not have a stage win this season, and he’s led 154 laps in eight races.

In looking at some of the competition, Kyle Larson, who is fourth in points, has led over 400 laps. William Byron, who leads the series with two race wins and five stage wins, has led 385 laps.

“Looking back at last year, I qualified really well and this year, we haven’t had an abundance of qualifying,” continued Bell. “Richmond was rained out, so we didn’t have a fair shake of it there. Las Vegas, we were quickest in the first round, and in the second round, the wind shifted and it seemed to hamper our qualifying performance. We didn’t qualify well there and weren’t able to get control of the race. And we haven’t been able to do that anywhere.”

Bell’s numbers, however, are impressive. Taking out the two races where he caught up in incidents (Fontana and Circuit of The Americas), Bell hasn’t finished worse than sixth.

“My cars are driving well, but we’re just missing a piece of the puzzle where we can lead the race and control the race and win stages,” Bell said. “Hopefully, we can close the gap on that to where I can lead laps. I think that’s important in this series.”