Christopher Bell looks to Richmond: ‘Potential to run as good as any of them’

Meg Oliphant | Getty Images
Meg Oliphant
Getty Images

Christopher Bell may not have the results to show for it so far this season, but the early speed is prevalent for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team.

Bell earned a season-best third-place finish at Circuit of The Americas last Sunday. The result added to his road-course résumé, which includes his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at the Daytona International Speedway road course and a second place at Road America. He achieved both results last season.

“I think it all boils down to having really fast race cars to drive,” Bell told “Being at JGR, their road-course program is very strong. Last week was no exception. We weren’t as strong as what we typically are, but we still have all the resources to go out there and run well. I enjoy it. It’s very difficult and I think that’s what drivers like – to be able to showcase their talent.”

The COTA result didn’t come easy this time around, though. Bell battled steering issues mid-race and narrowly missed Austin Cindric when his No. 2 Team Penske Ford broke loose and spun out.

Bell was convinced the hairy moment with Cindric would result in a crash, but savvy driving helped to avoid disaster.

“I saw Cindric spin and it looked like he was going to keep going to the inside of the track and then I don’t know what happened,” Bell said. “He turned his wheels or something, started backing up. I was already committed to go around the outside of him. Then I basically had to ‘baja’ through the grass off the race track and still make the corner. It was very tough.”

RELATED: Cup Series standings | Bell’s odds for Richmond

Bell has a top five and two top 10s to his credit this season, finishing 23rd or worse in four of the six races so far this year. His other top-10 result came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing 10th after starting on the Busch Light Pole. He was set to finish second at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but an out-of-bounds penalty on the final lap dropped him down to the last car on the lead lap, a tumble to the 23rd finishing position.

Coming off a micro sprint victory in his home state of Oklahoma the week leading into COTA, the 27-year-old Toyota protégé isn’t letting a rocky start to 2022 affect the confidence in his team leading into this Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“I think we have potential to run as good as any of them,” Bell said. “Richmond is one of my best race tracks coming up, so I think we all have high hopes with that.”

With a third- and fourth-place finish in two of his three career Richmond starts in the Cup Series, plus three Xfinity Series victories, Bell hopes to continue the JGR success at the .75-mile Virginia short track.

“I hate to keep harping on it, but it’s just that I have really good race cars to drive there,” Bell said. “Richmond is one of JGR’s best tracks as a company. It’s one that we definitely look forward to coming to year in and year out. Between the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, it’s a place that’s been really good to me.”