By: Ashley McCubbin
Photo By: Russell Labounty | Nigel Kinrade Photography
When asked what’s been easier to get acclimated to – being married or the Cup series, Christopher Bell had an easy answer – married life
Bell knew transitioning into the NASCAR Cup Series would not be easy, but he could not have predicted the way his season has begun.
The first four races of the 2020 campaign have seen the rookie involved in an incident each week, failing to finish two events with a best result of 24th at Phoenix Raceway.
“I haven’t seen a checkered flag yet so it’s been pretty easy to not compare myself to other guys just because I haven’t finished – well, I finished at Las Vegas, but I crashed,” he commented prior to Sunday’s event at Phoenix. “We’re focused on finishing a race first before we start worrying about where we stack up with everybody.”
His fellow rookies has seem to run better thus far, as Tyler Reddick was up inside the top-10 on Sunday at Phoenix before a late-race wreck took him out of contention after finishing 11th at Auto Club Speedway. Cole Custer, meanwhile, scored his first Cup Series top-10 with a ninth at Phoenix.
Certainly minimizing mistakes will be critical for Bell moving forward as contact with the wall each week has certainly not helped. However, improving the slightest bit behind the wheel will also make a difference.
“The slightest bit of getting on the accelerator a little bit earlier in the corners, its huge lap time,” Bell commented. “Just not using the brake as much. Phoenix is definitely a place where details make a good driver good and what makes a bad driver bad here.”
Being able to perfect a restart is also part of learning, as track position and gaining that while everybody is close together can make a difference between a top-10 and top-15 each week. For Bell, the style of the Cup Series restarts reminds him of how things were in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series.
“I would say it relates a lot more to truck racing, just the way they pack up and the restarts,” he commented. “The restarts relate a lot more to truck racing. Then you’ve got more capable drivers – the truck series has capable drivers too, but the Cup Series has more of them. There’s more depth, there’s more competitive cars on the track. It’s like a truck race with 30 competitive cars.”
While there’s been surprises every week on-track, Bell admits the biggest is seeing how busy you are compared to the other series.
“The west coast, it’s crazy,” he commented. “Even from the Xfinity side, you go home Saturday night so you have Sunday off and then you start again Monday. Where the Cup side, you race Sunday and then you start again Monday. It’s just been really, really busy. I’m just a driver, I can’t speak for the crew guys and stuff. This west coast swing has been extremely busy and extremely hard on everybody.”
The next opportunity for Bell to turn things around will be this weekend in Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1.5-oval has been kind to him in the past, with a third and a win in two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts.
“I love Atlanta, it’s been really good for me,” he commented. “We haven’t run very well on the intermediates yet, but we’re going to keep digging and keep trying. This has been really rewarding to come to Phoenix with a low downforce package. It feels almost identical to the Xfinity cars, so it’s felt a little more at home and I feel like I understand what I need a lot more here than I have the last couple weeks.”
Categories: NASCAR Cup Series