Bell has strong opening round, rebounds to finish 4th Saturday night in Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn — In a wild opening round of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, the best one in points was Christopher Bell. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the only one to snag 3 top 5 finishes in as many tries including a 4th place result in Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway.

Bell was 5th in the Southern 500 and 3rd last week in Kansas which is why he entered this weekend not having to do much of anything. He was already clinched into the Round of 12 by virtue of this first two results.

But Bell and his No. 20 Toyota team are competitors. They’re not going to give up. They came into the .533-mile race track eyeing a win. It’s a feat that they almost accomplished.

Bell led 143 of 500 laps and was handed the lead again when Brad Keselowski caught a flat tire on Lap 413. Unfortunately, Bell had one too 22 laps later bringing out the final caution of the night.

On pit road, 2 drivers had problems and with so few on the lead lap and a solid stop by Bell, they still were in the mix for a win. Which is why they rebounded much easier than others to score his 6th top 5 in the last 10 weeks and 1st career top 5 in the Cup Series at Bristol.

“It’s terribly disappointing. That’s two weeks in a row we have had speed, and the car underneath me to win the race, and haven’t done it,” Bell said. “Extremely proud of this No. 20 group. They keep bringing Camrys that are incredible to the race track.

“It makes me really excited about where we are going, especially Texas – which is one of my best race tracks. I proud of everyone on this group. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum.”

While no one had Bell as a serious championship threat entering the playoffs, the Oklahoma native is a factor from this point forward so long as they can keep this error free racing up.

“Looking at the next seven races, I would say Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix (the championship race),” Bell said. “Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys.

“Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a playoff car.”

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