Christopher Bell’s first laps in Xfinity car a ‘dream come true’

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CONCORD, N.C – The No. 18 has a long, storied history with Joe Gibbs Racing, dating back to the team’s first win in the 1993 Daytona 500.

The numeral has been associated with champions Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch. But for about seven hours Tuesday, the number belonged to Christopher Bell.

The 22-year-old driver made his first laps in a Xfinity Series car as part of a series test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The 2016 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year called the experience of driving for JGR “a dream come true.”

As part of a joint test day with the Truck Series, Bell’s first spin in the car took place a day after the team announced he would drive in seven Xfinity races this year, beginning May 27 at Charlotte.

“I’d never would have foreseen myself running in the Xfinity Series,” Bell told NBC Sports and the Performance Motorsports Network shortly after exiting the car after a run. “So to be able to do it for Joe Gibbs is very special.”

In the morning session of the seven-hour test, Bell logged 71 laps around the 1.5-mile track. The only other driver to complete more was rookie Cole Custer with 83. Bell was 15th fastest at 180.747 mph.

“It reminds me more of the Super Late Model stuff, I think that’s the biggest difference,” said Bell of his first impressions of the Xfinity car compared to the Truck Series. “They’re a lot more lively, a lot more responsive than the trucks. It’s going to take some getting used to.”

Bell has three wins in the Truck Series, including last March at Atlanta. Last season he made the championship four and was the only driver in it born after 1980.

The Oklahoma native said his time in the car Tuesday was about “having fun” and “getting laps.”

“Obviously, JGR is one of the best teams around,” Bell said. “As far as car-wise, I don’t think there’s too much to learn out here. It’s just me getting the hang of it.”