HAMPTON, Ga. — Christopher Bell is clear: History will not repeat Sunday.
When the Cup Series raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, Bell crossed the finish line second. But NASCAR penalized him for going below the double white line on the backstretch to advance his position on the last lap. He was dropped to 23rd, the last car on the lead lap, for crossing NASCAR’s out of bounds line.
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If Bell is in a similar situation on the last lap Sunday, what will he do?
“Just turn them,” he said. “If someone’s going to turn across my nose, then you’ve got to establish your ground, and that’s something I failed to do the last time I was here. The reason why I didn’t establish my ground and hold my steering wheel straight was because I thought it was clear enough that I was getting forced below the line. As it turns out, it was not clear enough. So next time I will fix that.”
With eight races left in the regular season, Bell holds the final playoff spot. He leads Kevin Harvick by 20 points. Bell also enters this weekend with a revamped pit crew, exchanging crew members with Bubba Wallace’s team.
“Both of us have had our struggles, for sure,” Bell said. “It’s cost both of us a lot of potential good finishes.”
The change marks the sixth different pit crew Bell’s team has had this season.
Front tire changer Jackson Gibbs and tire carrier Nick McBeath come from Bubba Wallace’s pit crew.
Rear tire changer AJ Rosini served as a tire changer for Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team of reigning series champion Alex Palou in some races this year and also been on Wallace’s crew and Kyle Busch’s pit crew in select races this season.
Bell’s pit crew has had three different jackmen, two different tire carriers, two different rear tire changers and five different front tire changers this year.
“Anybody who has paid attention to the 20 car this year would understand that the 20 car has not been amazing on pit road,” said Bell, who drove the car in pit practice this week with his new unit.
The only person on Bell’s five-member crew who remains from the unit that serviced his car in the Daytona 500 is fueler Joshua Pech.
With the spots lost on pit road and the 21 points lost in the previous Atlanta race, Bell is in position of falling out of a playoff spot with a poor finish or if there is a 14th different winner this year.
“I think everybody at our organization was looking forward to this race because we showed our strength here earlier in the year,” Bell said.