NXS: Christopher Bell Goes From Dirt to Daytona


Christopher Bell is moving to the next tier in NASCAR in 2018. The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion is now piloting the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Winning four races in 2017, Bell has shown his prowess on asphalt, but the casual fan may not realize the 23-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma got his start running dirt bull rings across the midwest. If you’re not plugged into Bell’s blossoming career, you might not know he’s won the Chili Bowl Nationals two years running.

The crossover from dirt to asphalt is a difficult transition, but when a driver makes a successful switch fans of either disciplines get exposed to something they may not have otherwise watched.

“I think the more guys that come from the dirt track ranks to NASCAR help bring that fan base over here,” Bell told the media on Wednesday. “Whenever you see guys like Kyle Larson have the success that he’s had and the NASCAR guys wonder how he did that and start paying attention to the dirt track side of things. So, hopefully it will continue to grow and that gap will get closer and closer in the future.”

“It’s really good for me to be able to continue to move up the ladder. That’s what every driver wants to do,” says Bell.

Christopher Bell hoists the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship trophy after becoming the 2017 NXS champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November. Photo by Mark Dottle.

There’s no doubting he understands the opportunities he’s been given.

“The best thing about my situation is I’ve been from Kyle Busch Motorsports, which is the premier truck team to now Joe Gibbs Racing, which is one of the premier Xfinity teams – not only Xfinity teams but Cup teams as well. So, for me hopping in this great equipment is huge for me … I’m really thankful for that opportunity that I get to continue my learning process in equipment that can hopefully showcase my talent, if i do a good job behind the car or behind the wheel.”

Though he’s found success in everything he’s driven, Bell thinks he has “crashed quite a bit in (his) short career,” believing he still has to get his “crashing problem fixed.”

This problem certainly isn’t a cause for concern for Joe Gibbs, considering he’s the newest addition to the power house organization. For the 2018 season Bell is paired veteran crew chief,  Jason Ratcliff, Matt Kenseth’s crew chief through the end of last season. This combination of experience and youthful aggression could be a palatable mixture.

Bell says, “learning how to run the longer distance races – that’s been my roadblock.”

He won’t tell you long runs are his struggle point though. Speaking about his experience on dirt tracks, he says “if a race would go green to checkered I’d be more successful than if there were a bunch of yellows that broke it up.”

It’s the nuances of NASCAR racing that are causing the most difficulties for the first year Xfinity driver.

“Pit stops, the amount of restarts, the amount of pit stops – stuff like that really was hard for me to figure out. A sprint car race, once they drop the green flag, if you’re in tenth or whatever you have to pass those cars to get up to the front. Where in NASCAR there’s so many different variables to get to the front than just passing cars. If you can’t pass cars then you can try different strategies, and try to leapfrog them there. The hardest part for me is figuring out that there’s a lot more ways to when a NASCAR race than being the guy that runs the hardest.”

“I do have some experience in these (NXS cars),” says Bell, “but I struggled last year with raw speed,” says Bell. “I seemed to have OK results but my speed wasn’t where it needed to be. So I got to learn how to get faster and learn a new crew chief, that’s always a big question mark, as well.”

Bell’s motivation is to win races. “I wish I could explain what it feels like to win a race, but I can’t. Winning, it’s the greatest feeling and the most addictive feeling that I’ve felt. So that’s what keeps me going.”

On Saturday afternoon, at 2:30 p.m., Bell will start the next chapter in his career when the green flag flies over the PowerShares QQQ 300.

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