By Jerry Jordan, Editor
Coming off a strong day at the NASCAR Playoff Opener at Darlington Raceway with a fifth-place finish, Christopher Bell is looking forward to the action at Kansas Speedway as he enters the second race of the playoffs sitting comfortably in fourth – well above next week’s cutoff spot.
“Just an important race for us,” Bell said. “We performed well at Darlington and got ourselves in a nice points position. Hopefully, we can execute this weekend and capitalize on some more points and be able to breathe easy going into Bristol.”
In fact, barring a disastrous finish in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, Bell will head to the cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway just looking to make it through safely and move to Round 2 of the playoffs. Bell believes the action at Bristol will be intense, not just because it is a cutoff race but because it will be the second time the new NextGen Cup Series car has been on the track there. That, he said, combined with being part of a Goodyear tire test at the track, should be a benefit for him and his team.
“I expect Bristol to be a really big momentum racetrack with these cars,” Bell said. “I did get to do the tire test about a year ago. What I learned is this is a very big momentum car and not much acceleration or deceleration either. I expect the top to be fast under those conditions and I think that lapped traffic is going to play a really big role in the race like it always does. I would expect the top to be very dominant at the Bristol race.”
It’s Bell’s second time in the playoffs but this time around, he comes in with less pressure and another year of working with crew chief, Adam Stevens. He said, he is even more confident and is well-aware of the fact that he has the least drama surrounding him of any of the four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers.
“So, I don’t really think my being a second year versus a first-year really has an effect on my outlook, but just my performance over the regular season this year definitely makes me feel more comfortable in my position than I was a year ago at this time. Last year, I didn’t feel like we performed like a team capable of racing for a championship and this year I feel like we’re able to do that. It makes me more confident in what we’ve got going on.
“It’s exactly how I like it for sure. It’s nice to be able to focus on the task at hand and not have a bunch of distractions floating around. Hopefully, we can keep it that way.”
So, is Bell the sleeper of the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs? He isn’t worried about it.
“I don’t really think that’s for me to decide,” Bell said. “In my head, I know where I think I rank up. Just trying to showcase what we’re capable of on the racetrack.”
Bell will roll off the grin, on Sunday, from the fourth starting spot after posting a qualifying speed of 179.659 mph. He is also all but assured TV time as his pit stall is one spot away from the NBC Pit Box.
Hollywood Casino 400 Starting Lineup:
|1||8||Tyler Reddick (P)||Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet||29.899||180.608|
|2||22||Joey Logano (P)||Shell Pennzoil Ford||29.936||180.385|
|3||48||Alex Bowman (P)||Ally Chevrolet||29.964||180.216|
|4||20||Christopher Bell (P)||DeWalt Toyota||30.057||179.659|
|5||1||Ross Chastain (P)||Advent Health Chevrolet||30.066||179.605|
|6||45||Bubba Wallace (P)||ROOT Insurance Toyota||30.124||179.259|
|7||5||Kyle Larson (P)||HendrickCars.com Chevrolet||30.142||179.152|
|8||2||Austin Cindric # (P)||Snap on Ford||30.158||179.057|
|9||24||William Byron (P)||Liberty University Chevrolet||30.18||178.926|
|10||17||Chris Buescher||Fastenal Ford||30.266||178.418|
|11||3||Austin Dillon (P)||Get Bioethanol Chevrolet||30.051||179.695|
|12||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Bass Pro Shops Red White Blue Toyota||30.105||179.372|
|13||14||Chase Briscoe (P)||Magical Vacation Planner Ford||30.129||179.229|
|14||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||Rheem Ford||30.177||178.944|
|15||99||Daniel Suarez (P)||CommScope Chevrolet||30.2||178.808|
|16||23||Ty Gibbs(i)||McDonald’s Toyota||30.362||177.854|
|17||12||Ryan Blaney (P)||Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford||30.396||177.655|
|18||21||Harrison Burton #||Menards/MasterForce Ford||30.419||177.521|
|19||7||Corey LaJoie||Circle B Diecast Chevrolet||30.434||177.433|
|20||18||Kyle Busch (P)||M&M’s Toyota||30.479||177.171|
|21||42||Ty Dillon||SunseekerResorts.com Chevrolet||30.493||177.09|
|22||9||Chase Elliott (P)||NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet||30.517||176.951|
|23||34||Michael McDowell||WISE-EV Ford||30.576||176.609|
|24||43||Erik Jones||FOCUSfactor.com Chevrolet||30.63||176.298|
|25||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||Acumatica Toyota||30.633||176.28|
|26||6||Brad Keselowski||Solomon Plumbing Ford||30.645||176.211|
|27||31||Justin Haley||LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet||30.658||176.137|
|28||16||Noah Gragson(i)||Cure Token Chevrolet||30.673||176.051|
|29||41||Cole Custer||HaasTooling.com Ford||30.745||175.638|
|30||51||Cody Ware||Nurtec ODT Ford||30.885||174.842|
|31||77||Landon Cassill(i)||Voyager: Crypto for All Chevrolet||30.901||174.752|
|32||38||Todd Gilliland #||CITGARD Ford||30.913||174.684|
|33||15||JJ Yeley(i)||RWR Ford||31.064||173.835|
|34||78||BJ McLeod(i)||Circle B Diecast Ford||31.528||171.276|
|35||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||SunnyD Chevrolet||31.906||169.247|
|36||10||Aric Almirola||Farmland Ford||0||0|