How Round of 8 played out could have cost Bell a championship he thinks in comparison to Logano

With two victories in must-win situations in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Christopher Bell stole his share of headlines and earned a spot in the Championship 4. 

But his last-minute heroics—particularly in the Round of 8 elimination race at Martinsville Speedway—may have put the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at a disadvantage compared with series champion Joey Logano, who won the first Round of 8 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and had two extra weeks to prepare for the Championship Race at Phoenix. 

“That’s very interesting, because I had the exact same circumstances in my two Xfinity years,” said Bell, who competed for the NASCAR Xfinity Series title in 2018 and 2019. “My first year I didn’t make it till the last race at Phoenix, and then in my second year, I won the first race at Texas. 

“It definitely changes your mind-set and your preparation for the event. Joey had multiple weeks to prepare for that event (the season finale). The car, I’m assuming, was sitting there getting all the Phoenix tune-up on it, where our car… I don’t know… I definitely did not think it was a disadvantage for him to be able to focus on that for a number of weeks.” 

He’s not wrong. Logano spoke candidly after that Vegas win on how much that would give him a massive advantage.

“We’ve got a few weeks to think about it, which is nice,” he said after his Round of 8 opening race win. “We will be able to focus in. I’ve lived this story before winning at Martinsville and being able to give yourself a bit of an advantage when you get to Phoenix when that’s all you think about for the next couple weeks where everybody else is fighting tooth and nail to get in. We’re able to really focus in on the one race that counts for us now.”

He admitted after his title in Phoenix that after his Vegas triumph that Phoenix is all that they thought about. Everything they did over the final two weeks of the semifinal round went into Phoenix. Bell and the other seven drivers in the Round of 8 didn’t have that luxury.

If you wait until Martinsville to know that you’re into the final round, you have less than one week to get your car ready to go. You’d have a car already built for Phoenix, but you didn’t have the extra week or two than the winners before you did to just focus on that car and that car only.

How can you pay extra attention to your Phoenix car for a championship run if you don’t even know if you’re going to be there or not with a chance for a title? You need to prepare your current cars the best that you can.

Winning at Martinsville, however, had its own rewards for Bell—not the least of which is the grandfather clock trophy that goes with the victory. 

“The house that I live in, we’ve just tried to keep my special trophies there, and the Martinsville clock is one that got to (be there),” Bell said. 

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