Quest for four straight wins presents major challenge for Christopher Bell

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 03: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 3, 2018 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Christopher Bell can reach rarefied air in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International (2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

But it won’t be easy.

Last Saturday at Iowa Speedway, Bell won his third straight NASCAR Xfinity Series race, becoming the first driver to win three in a row since Dale Earnhardt Jr. accomplished the feat in 1999.

Sam Ard holds the series record of four straight, winning at South Boston, Martinsville, Rougemont and Charlotte in 1983 over a star-studded cast of runners-up—Jack Ingram, Morgan Shepherd, Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt, respectively.

But Ard never had to deal with the vagaries of a road course. If Bell is to tie the series record, he’ll have to do it not only on a road course, but on a road course he had never seen before Friday’s abbreviated practice in the rain at 2.45-mile Watkins Glen.

As a WGI rookie, Bell had to run one lap in the wet, per NASCAR, and that was all he ran, posting an average speed of 82.282 mph, fourth fastest among six drivers who participated in the opening practice session.

Even though a fourth straight victory represents an uphill climb for Bell—and not just through the high-speed esses at WGI—don’t discount his chances.

“I still have the chance to do it,” Bell said on Friday at Watkins Glen. “My car and crew chief (Jason Ratcliff) are great. If anyone else was driving this thing, they would probably be the favorite. But with me and my lack of road course experience, I’m definitely not a favorite heading into this weekend.

“I’ve got the equipment. I’ve got all of the pieces to do it. It’s going to be a matter of me getting familiar with the race track and seeing where we stack up. I’ve never been here before, and I’m going to try to not overstep my boundaries and make sure we race our primary car and not the backup.”

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