INDIANAPOLIS — The next great NASCAR rivalry gained momentum Saturday when Christopher Bell chastised Kyle Larson for sending an apology text at midnight after their Watkins Glen incident instead of calling and then “crying to the media” that Bell didn’t respond.
Larson said he thought Bell “would at least have respect enough to talk.”
The two said Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that they have not talked to each other.
“I really don’t think we need to talk,” Larson said, speaking before Bell talked to the media.
“I’m over it. I’m pretty sure as the week has gone by he’s gotten more over it as well.”
Bell said he was bothered with Larson “going to the media, complaining that I didn’t respond. Yes, I would say that crossed the line.”
Bell said he was asleep when Larson’s text — “Sorry, hate I spun you” — was sent and didn’t see it until Monday morning. Bell said he didn’t feel the need to respond about the on-track incident because he had moved on.
Larson made contact with Bell as they raced for second place in Turn 1 on Lap 54 of the 90-lap race last week at Watkins Glen. Larson went on to win and apologized in media interviews for the contact. Bell finished seventh.
“I was a car length and a half above the normal bottom line and that was compared to my normal bottom line and his normal bottom line,” said Bell, who reviewed data of the incident. “That’s what I’ve got to say.
“He hit me and spun me out. I left him a lane and a half to not do that.”
Bell grew agitated this week when Larson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday that Bell had not responded to Larson’s text.
Bell said Saturday that he called Larson to discuss Larson’s comments about not responding but Larson did not answer. When Larson called back, Bell did not respond.
“On-track incident? Whatever,” Bell said. “Him crying to the media that I didn’t reply to his sorry text message, like come on.”
Bell said he’s found that it’s common for competitors not to respond to apology messages.
“I’ve apologized to a lot of professionals and very, very rarely, if ever, have I gotten a text message back, if I sent a text message,” Bell said. “My text messages aren’t going to come at midnight either.”
Bell and Larson have raced together for decade on dirt tracks and are racing around each more more in NASCAR. Larson has five wins this season; Bell has one. Both will be in the Cup playoffs.
They’ve raced each other hard and had contact before. So they know each other well.
Asked if he was surprised or disappointed that Bell did not respond to the text message, Larson said:
“Part of me wasn’t surprised. Part of me thought that as much as we’ve raced together growing up before we got to NASCAR that he would at least have respect enough to talk. I’m also not surprised. It’s cool.”
Asked why he wasn’t surprised, Larson said: “Because he’s just Bell.”
Bell said he won’t race Larson differently in Sunday’s Cup race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (1 p.m. ET on NBC) but admitted that “we always race each other extremely hard.”
Both acknowledge that this could be the start of quite a rivalry in NASCAR.
“He definitely has made me a better race car driver today,” Larson said of Bell. “He’s pushed me to want to work to be better, and I appreciate that competitive rivalry. I’ve got a ton of respect for him on the track. He’s amazing at what he does. Like I said, we’ll be racing together for a very long time. In NASCAR, dirt, whatever it is. It’s been fun.”
Bell also can see quite a duel for years with Larson.
“He’s really talented,” Bell said of Larson. “He’s going to be around for a while. I hope I’m around for awhile. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, I’ve got really good cars. He’s got really good cars at Hendrick (Motorsports). I think it’s hopefully going to be around for a while.”