Christopher Bell is one of four drivers entered in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Road America (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) who have won there in the Xfinity Series.
But Bell hasn’t raced at Road America since that 2019 Xfinity victory. So, he’s taking extra steps to knock any rust off. Along with his Cup duties, Bell is also racing in Trans Am’s TA-2 category this weekend.
“I think it’s just key to be able to have the track time and I haven’t been to this track in a number of years now, so just being able to … get on track more than just the one practice we have in the Cup Series is beneficial,” Bell said Thursday in a media teleconference.
“The (TA-2) cars are completely different than the Cup cars, but it’s still track time. You’re still shifting gears and the shift points relatively match up so, it’s not like testing a Cup car but it is helpful.”
It could also help Bell end a bad stretch for himself and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team in the Cup Series.
Bell won the first Cup road course race of the season back in February at Daytona International Speedway. But since then, he’s only recorded one top-five finish (fourth at Richmond, April).
He appeared to have a top-five run going in last Sunday’s second race of the doubleheader at Pocono Raceway. But run-ins with both Ross Chastain and Chase Elliott in the span of just two laps left his Toyota damaged and relegated him to a 32nd-place finish.
Over the past 10 races, Bell has finished 14th or worse in nine of them. A ninth-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway is the outlier.
With seven races to go before the playoffs begin, Bell knows a turnaround needs to happen soon.
As for what has put him in this spot, he noted that he and crew chief Adam Stevens are still learning each other in their first year together. He also mentioned struggles with performance “off the truck,” especially on weekends with no practice.
“At Nashville, we didn’t hit the setup off the truck and fortunately, we had practice to learn that,” Bell said. “But at a number of these race tracks throughout the course of the year, if you’re bad off the truck, then you don’t have time. There’s nothing to do. You can’t work on it or anything.
“It’s been tough but hopefully we can start being more consistent with that and being closer when we get off the truck. If you’re close, you can dial it in. But if you’re in left field, then it’s a lost cause.”
Bell remains optimistic that visiting tracks for a second time later this season will be helpful as Stevens continues to learn what he prefers in the race car. He also called his team’s ability to improve the car between last weekend’s Pocono races “a good sign.”
As for Sunday’s Cup race at Road America, Bell believes it won’t look much different from the Xfinity races there that he used to compete in.
“I think we might have a little more horsepower in the Cup car than the Xfinity car, so that’s gonna change things a little bit,” he said. “But I think the on-track product will be really similar.
“We have a lot of really talented road course racers in the Cup Series, so I think we’re going to see a lot of competitive cars.”