Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
See more: Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suárez, Chris Buescher, Chase Briscoe, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott
Driver: Christopher Bell
Car: No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD
Crew chief: Adam Stevens
Final 2022 ranking: 3rd
Key stats: 3 wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s, 4 poles, 573 laps led
How 2022 ended: Bell made a remarkable run through the NASCAR Playoffs to the Championship 4, earning a title-race bid after winning must-win elimination races at the Charlotte Roval and Martinsville Speedway. In the championship race at Phoenix Raceway, Bell was out front for 27 laps but continued to fall back in the field with unfortunate pit stops, taking him off the pace of the top contenders. Bell and the No. 20 team rallied to finish 10th in the season finale but fell behind Cup Series champion Joey Logano and runner-up Ross Chastain to finish third in the overall standings. Still, Bell’s clutch run-of-form down the stretch left him with many memorable moments from his third season in the premier series — the best of his career to date.
Best race: Charlotte Roval. With respect to Bell’s incredible performance at Martinsville Speedway, among such a strong field of road-course ringers, the Roval win was seemingly against all odds. Bell did score his first career victory on the Daytona Road Course layout in 2021, but in a must-win situation at one of the most daunting circuits on the schedule, not many people picked the No. 20 team to advance to the next round. Stuck behind the leaders all afternoon, a masterful pit strategy from crew chief Adam Stevens on Lap 105 of the 112-lap marathon set Bell up with fresh tires to fight for a miracle. Confident and composed, Bell tracked down Kevin Harvick and made the pass, eventually sailing off into the sunset, Victory Lane and the Round of 8.
Stat to know: Four poles. Bell flashed some serious speed this season, earning the first four Busch Light Pole Awards of his Cup Series career. The impressive total equaled the sum of his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates combined (Denny Hamlin with three, Martin Truex Jr. with one and Kyle Busch with zero) and tied the mark for most in the series this season (Kyle Larson and Joey Logano). Bell started on the pole for both of the races at Talladega Superspeedway.
Other notable highlights: Entering the season, Bell had led a total of 118 laps in his previous 72 Cup Series starts. His 573 laps led in 2022 shatters that total and was the ninth-most in the premier series. … Bell also set personal records in top fives (12) and top 10s (20) … Before this season, Bell had never made it past the Round of 12, making his Championship 4 run the deepest playoff run of his career. … Bell is the second driver that crew chief Adam Stevens has taken to the Championship 4 after first accomplishing the feat with Kyle Busch.
Quotable: “Yeah, I think the season was successful. To get to the final four is what every driver in NASCAR’s goals are. I’m very proud of that effort. With 40 or 50 to go, the last green-flag pit stop, we put ourselves in position to race for it. You can’t ask for much more than that. Looking towards next year, I think we have potential to be stronger yet, and certainly, we have room to improve at Phoenix. Yeah, I’m very content with where we ended the season and proud of the effort on this 20 car. I’m excited about the future with Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Looking ahead: Joe Gibbs Racing was filled with rumors of shakeups and a new direction during the 2022 season, settling into the roster we know now. After the departure of longtime driver Kyle Busch, Bell steps into a much bigger role with higher expectations coming after a marvelous campaign. The No. 20 group proved that this is a race team with the credentials to race for a championship, right alongside series staples Martin Truex Jr. (the 2017 Cup Series champion) and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Bell and Co. shattered predictions for his performance during the 2022 season by advancing to the Championship 4 but moving forward, that will always be the standard now for the talented young driver chasing his first Bill France Cup. Expect them to have a bit more consistency in their second season settling into the Next Gen car and perhaps raising the bar even higher.