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Kickin The Tires

Christopher Bell earns maiden top 5 Saturday at Pocono

Photo by Zach Catanzareti/Kickin' The Tires

By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer

Leavine Family Racing is back as the ultimate underdog team of the NASCAR Cup Series.

With rookie driver Christopher Bell behind the wheel of their No. 95 Toyota, Saturday at Pocono Raceway saw the team elevate their game to finish fourth in the Pocono Organics 325.

And after starting 36th for the 130-lapper, the day only got better for the 25-year-old.

“It was a great day,” Bell said. “I was really happy with our Rheem Camry. It took me a little bit to get up to speed with obviously not having practice in my first race in a Cup car here. But by the end I was really happy with the car.

“Everyone did a great job here on this No. 95 group. We executed and ended up front.”

With three prior top-10 finishes in 2020, Saturday was the first top five for Bell through 14 career Cup starts. And for LFR, the result was only their sixth top five in 234 Cup races.

“We seemed to be really fast in Turn 1,” he said. “That’s kind of where I could make all my moves at. Just have to work on Turn 3 a little bit and see how tomorrow goes.”

But the season hasn’t been a walk in the park for the 2017 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champion. With his now four top 10s, the No. 95 also has six finishes of 24th or worse, evening out to sit 24th in driver points. This is where veteran crew chief Jason Ratcliff can make a difference.

“Whenever I started working with Jason two years ago in the Xfinity Series, I started following him,” he said. “I knew he was really aggressive on strategy to get his driver up front. Seems like the majority of the race tracks that we’ve been to the last couple weeks have just been, put four tires on and go, but Pocono is definitely a place where you can mix up strategy, pit early, pit before the stages and so forth.

“Obviously, Jason did a great job and got us up front and we had the car speed to stay up there.”

Bell hopes Saturday’s run can lead to another strong result Sunday, where the Cup cars will be back on track for the second and final race of the weekend in Pennsylvania.

“I’m looking forward to see if we can build on it,” he said. “I think all of our cars are really good. We are close to winning, so hopefully we can continue to get better and see if we can move up a little further tomorrow.”

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