Christopher Bell is undoubtedly having a very quiet rookie campaign in the NASCAR Cup Series. He’s watched fellow rookie Tyler Reddick compete for wins on multiple occasions this season. He saw another rookie in Cole Custer steal a win in thrilling fashion a couple of weeks ago at the Kentucky Speedway and net a playoff berth by virtue of that.
Reddick, is 15th in the overall points standings and with Custer and his teammate Austin Dillon’s surprise victories in back-to-back weeks, he’s one spot out of the postseason with just seven races remaining in the regular season.
Bell, well he’s been the quiet one. He’s 23rd in the playoff standings, 113 points out. But, while it has to be frustrating watching fellow rookies contending for wins more than him, Bell says this has been a dream come true.
“It’s a dream come true,” Bell said of being a Cup driver. “Being able to compete at NASCAR’s highest level is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to do that.”
Bell says that it’s been fun to be able to compete against all the rookies and feels like all of them have kind of had their own moments where each have done well.
“Pocono was definitely a highlight for me. Bristol was another one,” Bell continued. “I’m looking for more of those highlights and hopefully we’ve got another one coming this weekend.
“It’s been cool to see John Hunter (Nemechek) and Cole (Custer) and Tyler Reddick also up there. They’re all running good and I’m really proud of all of us rookies for competing well and hopefully we can continue to improve and maybe get a couple more rookie wins.”
He could have a shot this weekend. It’s to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway — a track Bell has won each of the last two years on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In fact, he has a three year win streak going as he won the Truck Series race there in 2016. He was second in 2015.
“New Hampshire is one of my best race tracks that we go to on the schedule for whatever reason,” Bell said. “I don’t know why that is.
“I think I have to give a lot of thanks to Kyle Busch Motorsports because whenever I drove for them in the Truck Series, we actually used one of our rookie tests up there at Loudon in the 2016 season. That kind of kicked off my experience there.
“I’ve also run a Late Model race there back in 2015 so I had a lot of seat time before I started going there in the NASCAR Series and it’s just been a great race track for me with the second-place and the win and two truck races I’ve run there and then two wins in the Xfinity Series.”
Even if he doesn’t win, just getting a solid finish would go a long way for a future win. See, he can’t seem to stay in the top 24 of owners points. He got there after Texas but a 23rd place result last week in Kansas moved him back out.
The significance of that is, being in the top 24 allows him to have a much better starting spot. He’d start between 13-24th. Instead, the best he can do is 25th and worse 36th. More times than not, he’s starting in the worst row possible. Like this weekend.
He drew the 35th starting spot. He’s started in Row 18, the worst row possible six times now, five of which in the last nine races. He’s started 32nd or worse in eight of the last 12 races at that and one of those races he didn’t was an invert and the other the race he got into the top 24.
That puts him behind the eight ball right off the bat. That plus no practice is rough. Still, Bell is taking it in stride.
“I think this no practice thing definitely fits my background,” Bell said. “I think it’s up and down and if you look at our results, we’ve arguably ran a little bit better since they stopped practice.
“One thing that I do think it hinders me a little bit on is I just don’t have a feel for these cars and it takes a little bit to figure out where the limit is and especially at these race tracks where we’re going with new rules packages. It’s definitely a little bit different.”
Bell said you have to expect the unexpected, in Cup and that 2020 has been absolutely crazy.
“It started off crazy with the President coming to the Daytona 500. That was a surreal moment and very cool experience to be a part of and then on top of that, it ended up getting rained out so then we didn’t race until Monday night for the Daytona 500. Then the pandemic hit and we had a huge break in the season. I’ve very thankful that NASCAR is allowing us to keep going to the race track. It’s been up and down for me since then. We’ve definitely made gains since the beginning of the year.”
Bell could potentially be on the move again in 2021 with Leavine Family Racing in financial troubles. Despite that, he doesn’t try to get too involved in the business aspect of the sport and knows things take care of themselves.
Bell expects that if he doesn’t win Sunday that the Daytona road course would be a good spot.
“Yes, absolutely,” Bell said of the new race. “I’ve been able to do pretty good on the road courses the last couple years. I’ve been definitely putting in a lot of effort into the Daytona road course on the simulator and stuff. Hopefully, it will pay off.”
Still, Bell thinks that going back to tracks a second time here soon will be a huge advantage.