Toyota Racing – Christopher Bell
NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS)
Chicagoland Speedway – June 28, 2019
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to the media in Chicago:
Christopher Bell, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Did you enjoy your off-weekend?
“So I had a really fun weekend scheduled and unfortunately the Midwest weather put an end to it. After Iowa, I was planning on – well, I did fly straight to Ohio and I was going to do the Ohio Speedweek Monday through Saturday. I was supposed to get six races in. We flew up, rained out Monday, rained out Tuesday so I flew home and didn’t get to race. Very rare weekend off for me.”
Have you re-signed with Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I’m good for another year. I don’t know what I’m going to be racing, but I will be somewhere.”
So you will be somewhere with Joe Gibbs Racing?
So you extended for one year?
You don’t know whether that will be Xfinity or Cup?
“No, not right now. It’s a little bit too early.”
Is Joe Gibbs Racing committed to paying you next year?
“I guess that’s what that means.”
Is it good to know?
“It’s really good that I have a job. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing is where I want to be at. I’m thankful that I get to go for another year.”
Are you still in a rush or are you not in a rush?
“My words got spun around a little bit. I didn’t mean to ever say that I don’t enjoy racing in the Xfinity Series, I love the Xfinity Series and I love the cars. I’ve said it multiple times, the rules package that we have right now is so much fun to drive. I love where I’m at and next year, I have no idea where I’m going to be at, but if I’m in Xfinity again, I have a lot of fun racing there and I’m okay with that.”
Does it ever get awkward with other drivers when rumors are going around the garage about you both, specifically Erik Jones?
“Honestly, I don’t get very much time around Erik (Jones) or any of our Cup guys really. I guess Kyle (Busch) would be the guy that I’m around the most just because I drove for him and he runs the most Xfinity races. As far as the JGR Cup guys, I really don’t have very much interaction with them. There’s really not anything awkward because you look at the results and all four of their drivers are doing exactly what they need to do. I don’t feel like any of their drivers feel like they’re on the hot seat at all. Obviously, me looking in, there’s not really a hole for me yet. I don’t know where I’m going to be.”
Is it frustrating to keep being asked about next year?
“You just keep giving the same answer over and over and over. It’s not really frustrating, it’s cool that I keep getting talked about because obviously Cup is the highest level in the sport and for people to talk about me going there is pretty special.”
What is the key to your success the last couple months?
“Just have really good race cars, that’s the bottom line. This whole, really racing in general, I’ve learned from a very young age, you’re only as good as the race cars you sit in. I’m lucky to have really fast race cars and drive for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
What is a crazy move on the race track to you as a driver?
“A perfect example of that is him (Tyler Reddick) committing to running the wall at Homestead last year. That very easily could have resulted in a cut tire, getting trapped a lap down in the first stage of the race. But it didn’t and he won the race and won the championship. It’s just stuff like that. We know on Saturday, he’s going to commit to running around the wall here at Chicagoland from lap 30 in the race to lap 200 in the race. It might work out for him, he might hit the wall and get a flat tire. It’s just stuff like that and just his risk versus reward factor, he’s always going to go for it and that’s just his driving style.”
How much does the composite body help?
“It helps a lot. That goes for all of us. We’re all learning more as we go and we’re coming to find out that you can run pretty hard, you can make mistakes and you can run into each other and run into the walls a little bit and get away with it.”
Do you need to learn how to do some of that even more on the race track?
“Absolutely and (Tyler) Reddick at Homestead was very eye-opening for us because we all went into. Homestead last year thinking, ‘Okay, the top, we know the top at Homestead is very fast.’ It’s proven time and time again. But the risk factor is so high. Reddick, he did it last year. With the composite body, he was able to scrub the wall a couple times and he still won the championship. Now learning from that this year, whenever we go back to Homestead, we’re going to have to run against the wall and that’s just part of it.”
Will you have to train yourself to not race with composite bodies whenever you move to Cup?
“Same thing, risk versus reward. We’re learning to put our car in jeopardy here and find all this speed running right up against the fence and if you hit the wall you can get away with it in these Xfinity cars. Like you said, the Cup deal, you scrub the wall, you get a tire rub immediately. I don’t know if the composite bodies are coming to the Cup Series, you hear they are and I love the composite bodies. Maybe it is something we’ll have a head start on the Cup guys at some point.”
How aware are you of the other Xfinity Series points contenders?
“The way that the NASCAR championship deal works, really nothing matters until Homestead. There’s a championship four so four of us are going to be competing against each other all with zero points so winner take all format. Right now, it looks like the three of us have a little head start as far as the championship points and whenever the Playoffs start, we’ll have that little it of a lead because of the championship points. Ultimately, I don’t feel like we’re racing against each other right now until we get to Homestead racing against each other. You obviously always want to excel and beat the other competitors so I’m happy that I have four and they have three and I want five this week.”
Do you enjoy the new points system or would you prefer the old system?
“I really enjoy, I enjoy being able to race hard and crash a couple times going for wins because you’re able to win races at some point. On the same hand, a one-race deal for a winner take all format is kind of tough. It’s very difficult because if you get one loose tire on that last pit stop, if you have – we saw Erik Jones get in the wrong restart lane in the Xfinity race a couple years ago – just it can all boil down to that last run of the race. It’s just part of it so there’s nothing we can do about it. It creates a lot of drama and excitement. I’ve never been the best points racer, but it is pretty stressful knowing that you can be one loose wheel away or one uncontrolled tire away from losing a championship. The early part of the season, it’s happened to me a bunch this year, I’ve DNF’d and had bad finishes, but I’ve won three times so who cares, we can kind of scratch it off. Whenever the Playoffs start, that mentality goes away and you have to start focusing more on the points unless you’re able to win and it advances you automatically.”