By: Mitchell Breuer
Christopher Bell will enter into his first year driving the No. 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing, setting up big expectations for the 26-year-old. However, with that, comes pressure to perform, especially given the recent history of a revolving door at the team.
“I’m in a difficult position, no doubt about it,” Bell said. “Whenever you drive for Joe Gibbs Racing or any top organization, I think that the expectations are to be a championship contender. Coach (Joe Gibbs) provides all of the resources needed to have four championship caliber teams and that is what the goal is. Anything short of that is not good enough. This is my first year here. I don’t think that people are realistically expecting me to compete for a championship this first year, but eventually that needs to be the end goal – to have a championship caliber team, and I hope that I’m a championship caliber driver to lead that group.”
Those expectations have been made clear in the last three years, as JGR has parted ways with Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, both of whom performed well, but not equal to the trio of Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr, who have proven to be championship contenders on a yearly basis.
This something Bell is aware of, and believes at least making the playoffs, which the No. 20 failed to do last season, is a necessity.
“If I don’t make the playoffs this year, that is not going to be ideal,” Bell said. “That’s for sure. I don’t know what the results of that would be, but I don’t want to find that out. I think we have all of the tools necessary to make the playoffs, and that’s for sure a big goal. If you make the playoffs, typically you’ve been running well, you have won a race or you’re running exceptional in points to get there, so yeah, making the Playoffs is a big deal for us.”
The good news for Bell is he heads into this season with a year in Cup already under his belt after spending 2020 at Leavine Family Racing. One thing he hopes to carry over is the lessons learned from competing in 400-, 500-mile races for the first time.
“It is a big deal to go from Xfinity races which are 300-miles at the longest, and short tracks are shorter,” Bell told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Then you go to Cup racing which you have 500-miles, 400-miles all of the time. You have a couple of 500-mile races and then you have the Coke 600. The distance part is a big difference and learning how to run all of those miles without making one mistake and getting into the wall and knocking the fender into the tire, cutting a tire, and getting into somebody – gaining that knowledge and experience. If we are on lap 200 of 325, you don’t need to push extra to get 10th spot or whatever. Just the on-track knowledge and experience of doing it is the biggest thing I’m going to take away from LFR (Leavine Family Racing) to JGR.”