Rising like a rocket into the atmosphere, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell has soared to the NASCAR Cup Series standings lead following his first win of the 2023 season at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt. The win was the fifth of his career and his first at the half-mile track. Now, for the third consecutive season (2021-2023), the 28-year-old Oklahoma native has locked himself into the Playoffs and has also earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race that will be held on May 21 at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Atop the standings, Bell holds a 13-point lead over Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain in second and a 26-point lead over Stewart-Haas Racing’s veteran Kevin Harvick in third. Through eight race this season, Bell has put up one win (Bristol Dirt), five top fives (series-most) and six top 10s (tied with Alex Bowman for series-most). Bell is the seventh different winner and the fourth different points leader through the first eight races of the season.
“We knew this was going to be a good stretch of races,” said Bell. “Obviously wanted to capitalize on it.
Last year through the Playoffs, it was a really big eye opener of Playoff points, how important they are. Frankly, we didn’t have very many of them last year. The only thing that pays Playoff points is race wins and stage wins. Thankfully, we have five in the bank now and we need to get some more.”
Looking to Martinsville this weekend, Bell must be encouraged about keeping up this early season success, as he is the most recent winner at 0.526-mile track, taking the victory last Fall in the Playoff race to earn his spot in the Championship 4 Round.
“I feel good about going back to Martinsville,” said Bell. “It’s going to be certainly different with the low downforce package. But it’s different for everybody. I feel like we were the best car there in the Fall, so hopefully we can do our homework and make sure to study the differences between Richmond and Phoenix with the low downforce package and what we expect at Martinsville.”
In six NASCAR Cup Series starts at Martinsville Speedway, Bell has put up one win (2022), one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at the half-mile track is 14.6, and he has led 159 laps.