Christopher Bell finished third at the Daytona 500. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

Bell Honed In On Surviving Superspeedway Stretch

With two back-to-back superspeedway races to open the NASCAR Cup Series season, Christopher Bell recognized it “could go really bad” if neither wildcard race went his way.

But in the days following the rain-delayed Daytona 500, where Bell finished third after avoiding multiple wrecks at Daytona Int’l Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had cause for relief.

“Honestly, we got really fortunate,” Bell said. “We showed a lot of pace between the Duel and the early part of the race. When we had track position, we were fast. But I don’t know, it didn’t go our way (at the end) and we need to study it.”

Though he once again came up short in his quest to win NASCAR’s season-opening crown jewel, Bell also managed to not put himself in a hole right out of the gate. On top of that, he won the second Duel at Daytona last Thursday night.

Heading into this Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Bell finished third last season, the driver of the No. 20 Toyota is feeling a little more at ease with superspeedway racing — even if he personally doesn’t enjoy it.

“I hate them, but it has been going better. I’ve just been luckier. I joke because ever since me and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) got paired up, I told Adam that speedway racing is 100 percent luck,” Bell said. “I know that’s not true. I don’t know — for whatever reason, it has come our way more.”

The humble 29-year-old isn’t quick to boast, but one should take into account that he’s mounting his charges off of considerable momentum.

Bell won two races and made his second consecutive appearance in the Championship 4 last year. However, after a brake failure during the finale at Phoenix Raceway, he finished fourth in the standings.

“Honestly, I felt really good about Phoenix and how we ended there. Obviously, it was disappointing, but I was pretty content and at peace. Really, almost instantaneously,” Bell said. “The anger and frustration I had was whenever my brakes were in the process of failing, and when they did fail — you know what, it wasn’t meant to be this year.”

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a grieving process, but Bell noted it was relatively short. The sting that’s still bugging the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was his failure to qualify for the Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 4 — NASCAR’s non-points exhibition race at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

“The Clash was a tough one to swallow and moving on from that has been difficult, and I’m glad we’re finally here. Once the race season gets started, you can move on from races pretty easily, but definitely missing the Clash was not ideal,” Bell said.

Now that the Daytona 500 has come and gone without any major catastrophes, Bell has swung his focus to the future and toward the next championship trophy that’s up for grabs.

“I think we poised for more great things in 2024 than we had in 2023. I’m looking forward to what we have in store,” Bell said.