LOUDON, NH — Christopher Bell started the 2021 season off proving that Toyota was extremely wise by sticking by him since his early USAC days. He nearly won a Duel in Daytona, won the second race of the season on the Daytona ROVAL and had three top 10’s in his No. 20 Toyota in the first five races of the year.
Then a sophomore regression happened. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had just three top 10 finishes over the next 14 races and only one top five from Homestead in late February to Pocono in late June (17 races).
But once the calendar hit July, Bell has gotten as hot as the summer conditions. He was runner-up on July 4 at Road America. He backed that up with an eighth place run last Sunday in Atlanta. Now, he looked the part in Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in coming home runner-up again for the second time in three weeks.
“I didn’t know how may laps they cut it short, but definitely whenever I saw the board and saw that we were eight laps short, it stings man,” Bell said. “I felt like I probably had a little better pace than him and I was able to get to him. I know lapped cars were giving him a bad time, but I was able to get to him. It was going to be a heck of a race, but really proud of everyone on this Rheel Pristine Auction Camry. They did really good. Everyone on this 20 crew – we didn’t start out the greatest and then we were really good, probably the best we were all day right there at the end of the race. That’s all you can ask for is to have a shot at it and just wish we had eight more laps.”
This was one of this best tracks though as he was runner-up and first respectively in two career Truck Series starts on Granite State track. He then moved to Xfinity to where he won three straight races including Saturday’s. Now, he has a runner-up in Cup for six top two results in seven New Hampshire tries.
With a win and a runner-up on road courses this season with two of them coming up next following a two-week break to observe the Olympics, maybe Bell is going to factor into the postseason fight for the championship after all.
The Oklahoma native has been impressive on the 750 short track package with being seventh in Martinsville, fourth in Richmond and now runner-up in Loudon. The final two races of the season are with this package with the Round of 8 cut race at Martinsville and the Championship 4 in Phoenix. Both tracks compare the most to Sunday’s race on the Magic Mile.
Is Bell a sleeper going forward? It sure seems like it. This car hasn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs in each of the last 2017 but it also has Kyle Busch’s crew from last year and seasons past to amount a deep playoff run.