Christopher Bell has started the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season the way he ended the 2022 one – a championship contender. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver won a pair of playoff races, both elimination events at that, and stormed all the way to the Championship 4 at Phoenix as a result of each. In the five races run this season now, Bell has four top five results in his No. 20 Toyota. That has him second in points after the first five weeks of the year, just one point shy of points leader, Joey Logano.
One of those top six finishes was his third place run in Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Bell had to come from the back to score his first top 5 in six career NASCAR Cup Series starts on the 1.54-mile track. What’s crazy is, Bell has never considered himself much of a drafter. These have been his worst tracks.
However, a second place run in February’s Duels in Daytona, followed by a third place result in the Daytona 500 and now a third place finish in Atlanta makes him 3-for-3 on these tracks for far this season. In fact, Bell was there in the end with a chance at a win. It was unfortunately his inexperience of being up front at these tracks as the reason to why Joey Logano, not himself, was celebrating a win in front of a frigid crowd in Central Georgia on Sunday.
“When the 22 (Joey Logano) and the 6 (Brad Keselowski) got side by side, I felt like I lost the race,” Bell said of the ending.
“Really I think I screwed up whenever I went to the top. Coming to the white, one of those laps, I aborted the bottom and went to the top, and gave the 22 the bottom which ultimately got him the lead. That was disappointing.
“Ultimately to come home third, I’m super happy with that. Great show for our DeWalt Camry.”
Bell initially made the final round of qualifying on Saturday but spun on his lap in the second round. As a result, they had to make some adjustments to the car which meant he went to the rear at the start. Still, Bell was sixth by the end of the opening stage and would go on to get a top 5 in the end was as close to a perfect day as he could have asked for.