Have you ever read or heard the words “stress” and “free” used in the same sentence when talking about NASCAR racing at a superspeedway?
But such a sentence was uttered by Xfinity Series driver Christopher Bell Thursday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Beyond Racing” ahead of this weekend’s races at Talladega Superspeedway.
Bell is probably surprised himself to be referencing superpseedway racing in such a manner.
“Talladega is looking good. I’ve started to look forward to the speedway races,” Bell said. “They were something I didn’t really enjoy whenever I first started.”
This isn’t surprising given Bell’s infamous barrel roll at Daytona on the last lap of his first Gander Outdoors Truck Series race there in 2016.
Since 2015 he’s made nine superspeedway starts in the Truck and Xfinity Series. While he has no wins, he’s earned one top five at Daytona (Xfinity in Feb. 2018) and one top five at Talladega (Trucks in 2017).
In his lone Xfinity start at Talladega last year, he started 13th and finished 12th, leading only one lap.
As mentioned, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has a unique view of the close quarters racing that comes with Daytona and Talladega.
“Now that I’ve gotten a little more seat time and understanding how the process goes, I’m starting to enjoy it a little bit more,” Bell said. “Speedway racing is kind of a stress-free deal for the race car driver because … it’s not about getting the most out of your race car and it’s not about laying a lap down in qualifying. It’s a just different mentality and I’m starting to enjoy that.”
Bell said it’s a “nice break” from the “pressure-filled” week-to-week routine on other tracks.
“Whenever you go speedway racing, you’re not in control very much at all,” Bell said. “Everybody’s so packed up together that one mistake from any of the 40 drivers in the field can take you out. On the same token, it’s not about driving your race car to the limits because you’re so far under the limit of the tire and the car. It’s really kind of a tossup.
“There is definitely some skill involved because you see the same guys over and over be successful at this. But it’s not the same style of racing we see week in and week out on the downforce style race tracks. I’m going to try and do my best to figure out how to be positioned in the right position come the checkered flag. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
Bell enters Saturday’s race with two wins through this season’s first eight races. That’s one more win than he had at this point in 2018, when he went on to claim a rookie record seven Xfinity wins.
“I’d like to say I’ve figured something out, but it’s really a credit to my team,” Bell said. “I feel like we as a group or my team as a group … just really stepped up to the next level here bringing really fast Supras to the race track. That really started out at Daytona last year. The Camrys at Daytona didn’t seem to be as competitive as what we have this year with the Supras. The Supras have definitely improved out speedway package. Downforce stuff I feel we’re just as competitive as what we were with the Camrys.”
Bell also credits taking a different approach in preparing for a race each weekend.
“Knowing what you need to race and not chasing the stop watch in practice is probably one thing that I’ve learned from last year and applied to this year,” Bell said.