BRISTOL, Tenn. — Rumors ran amok at Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday that Christopher Bell would be making the jump from the Xfinity Series to the Monster Energy Series for the 2020 season.
Well, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota currently in the middle of his second full-time season in the Xfinity Series neither confirmed nor denied them.
“It’s still all up in the air,” Bell said. “There’s a number of different cars that I could drive next year. Obviously I could still run the Xfinity Series. I could go to the Cup Series. It’s not in my hands right now. I just have to go out there and try to continue to win races. Ultimately, that’s the only way I’m going to better myself.”
In 62 Xfinity Series starts, Bell has won 13 races and notched 35 top-five finishes overall. The 24-year-old joined NASCAR’s second-tier link as a full-timer in 2018, right after winning the Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship the year prior.
Bell announced a 2020 extension with Joe Gibbs Racing back in June but never mentioned what series he’d be officially racing in. The issue is JGR already has four full-time Cup drivers in Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr., meaning its roster is maxed out.
Matt DiBenedetto did reveal Thursday he’s not returning to Leavine Family Racing for 2020. This year was his first and last with the organization. LFR now has an available seat.
That very well could be Bell’s opening, or so reports hinted.
“I don’t know,” Bell said. “That’s tough for me to answer because right now I drive for Joe Gibbs Racing and the 95 is not a Joe Gibbs Racing car. So, we’ll just have to see how it works out here in the next coming weeks.”
As of this season, though, Leavine Family Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing are technically affiliated. Bell should be allowed to make this switch without any issues.
Bell doesn’t have an agent, so he made it clear no news is official unless it comes from him or his team. Bell did say wherever he ends up in his career he wants his current crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, with him every step of the way. He would also like Rheem, his sponsor, to stay with him but is unsure how that would work out.
Handling his own affairs can be stressful, Bell admitted, but it does not affect his performance.
“I feel like I do a good job of turning all the distractions off,” he said. “Whenever you put a helmet on, it goes away pretty quick. You don’t really think about anything. You just go out there and perform the task at hand.”
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Bell’s next tasks: The Xfinity Series qualifies Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET and then race the Food City 300 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Bristol Motor Speedway. Both events will air live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.
Bristol will knockout one of the five regular-season races left before 12-driver playoffs begin. Bell is currently ranked second in the championship standings with 901 points and locked into the postseason thanks to his five wins this season.
“I do have a job for next year,” Bell said. “Ultimately, that’s all that really matters. I’ll be racing something, whether it’s in the Cup Series or the Xfinity Series.”