Three weeks ago, Christopher Bell said that he wanted to “conquer” the Xfinity Series and “be the guy that everyone says that (they) have got to beat.”
The 23-year-old series rookie is quickly becoming that driver.
In the past two weeks, Bell beat former Cup champion Kyle Busch at Kentucky and Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire for victories.
At Kentucky, Bell started in the rear after spinning in qualifying. Busch led 111 laps but finished third to Bell.
At New Hampshire, Bell held off a charging Keselowski late to earn his third series victory of the season. Bell won’t take full credit for the win, noting he took four tires on his last stop and Keselowski took two. Still, Bell won.
What has it meant to beat Busch and Keselowski in consecutive races?
“It makes me happy,” Bell said after the New Hampshire win. “You see all this crap going around the Internet where Cup guys shouldn’t be allowed in Xfinity. Well, why? Why shouldn’t they be allowed in Xfinity?
“Ever since I was a kid growing up sprint car racing, I strived to go race with the World of Outlaws because they were the best. I strive to race with Kyle Busch and Keselowski and all those guys. I love racing with the best. I want to be the best.”
Bell, who won the Truck Series title last year, has shown he has the talent to go with the strong rides with Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series and now Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series.
Even with those benefits, he’s winning races and that’s what one has to do in such equipment if they hope to land a premier ride in NASCAR’s top series someday.
“I think if you look at Christopher’s background, he’s excelled in every series he’s ever been in, won races, so I wouldn’t say he’s outperformed (expectations), he’s doing exactly what we thought he would do,” said Steve de Souza, executive vice president at Joe Gibbs Racing, whose primary duty is overseeing the organization’s Xfinity program.
Heading into Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway (5:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Bell is six points behind series leader Daniel Hemric. Bell’s three wins and three stage victories give him a series-high 18 playoff points with eight races left in the regular season.
Earlier this month at Daytona, Bell said how he needed to be better.
“I want to conquer the Xfinity Series and win more races and finish my job here,” he said. “I want to be the guy. I want to be the guy that everyone says that I’ve got to beat the 20 car. That’s what I want, and I pride myself on every step along the way I’ve become the guy to beat. I just don’t feel like I’m there yet in these Xfinity cars.”
He admits his season had not gone quite how he hoped up to that point.
“I’ve got a lot of great runs going, but it’s kind of similar to my first year in Trucks,” Bell said at Daytona. “I’ve crashed some. Got taken out some. The finishes are either really good or DNF’s. I’ve just got to put the races together and hopefully it comes together pretty quick.”
Crew chief Jason Ratcliff sees Bell developing the habits that will carry him to more success.
“I think that we started the season capable of winning races and Christopher is – he’s doing a good job of communicating what he needs with the race car each and every week,” Ratcliff said at New Hampshire. “The guys are building better race cars at the shop, so I think it’s everything all around – his ability, the race cars, the pit crews are just coming together when it counts.”
2. Team of the Decade Race
With Hendrick Motorsports in the midst of a 36-race winless streak (the second-longest winless drought in its history), Joe Gibbs Racing is pulling away in the duel to win the most Cup races this decade.
Since 2010, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 77 races. Hendrick Motorsports is next with 61 wins. Team Penske is third with 44 victories and is followed by Stewart-Haas Racing, which has 43 victories, and Roush Fenway Racing at 21 wins.
Here’s the full list:
WINS BY ORGANIZATION SINCE 2010
77 – Joe Gibbs Racing
61 – Hendrick Motorsports
44 – Team Penske
43 – Stewart-Haas Racing
21 – Roush Fenway Racing
19 – Richard Childress Racing
18 – Furniture Row Racing
10 – Chip Ganassi Racing
6 – Michael Waltrip Racing
3 – Richard Petty Motorsports
2 – Front Row Motorsports
2 – Wood Brothers Racing
1 – JTG Daugherty Racing
1 – Red Bull Racing
3. Pocono: The start of something good for Kyle Busch
Last July, Kyle Busch scored his first career Cup win at Pocono. Since that win, Busch has run 36 races (a full season) and his stats over that time are staggering.
In the last 36 races, Busch has a series-high 10 wins, a series-high seven poles, a series-high six runner-up finishes, a series-high 28 top-10 finishes and a series-high 1,967 laps led.
He’ll go for a sweep at Pocono this weekend. He’s entered in both the Cup and Truck race. This will be his fifth and final Truck race of the year. Cup drivers with more than five years experience are limited to seven Xfinity and five Truck races a season.
4. Looking to win again
Past the halfway mark in the Cup season, here are the drivers who scored at least one win last season who are still looking for a victory this year: Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney.
5. $658 million in renovations
With the announcement Thursday that International Speedway Corporation will renovate the infield at Talladega Superspeedway at a cost of about $50 million, it marked the fourth major project ISC has done on one of its tracks since 2013.
Daytona International Speedway’s upgrades were estimated at $400 million for redoing the frontstretch grandstands, suites, concourses and such.
Upgrades at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) are expected to cost $178 million. That will include additional stands, a new infield fan area, a pedestrian tunnel to the infield and more. The project will be completed before this fall’s races.
Talladega Superspeedway announced upgrades that will cost about $50 million that will include new garages for Cup teams, a new fan area between the garages that allows easy access for fans to that area and a new victory lane, among other upgrades
Richmond Raceway will spend an estimated $30 million that features new Cup garages that will have a fan viewing walkway, a fan area, a new media center and a new pedestrian tunnel. That project is set to be completed in September.