Things are looking up for Christopher Bell

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 20: Christopher Bell answers questions from the media at the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Media Day on September 20, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR)

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Christopher Bell, a five-time winner and championship favorite in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, is ready to take the next step in his career.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Friday that Bell will compete for the NASCAR XFINITY Series title in a JGR Toyota next year.

“I’m excited,” said the 22-year-old from Norman, Okla., who grew up racing on dirt and this year realized a lifelong dream by winning the Chili Bowl for midget cars during the NASCAR offseason. “One thing that Toyota has done a great job of is preparing me for the next stepping stone.

“Whenever I was running late models at Kyle Busch Motorsports, they were kind of trickling me into some truck races, and I think I got seven truck races that year before I went full time, and it worked out again this year where I’m going to have, I think, eight XFINITY races before I go full time next year. So that’s great seat time for me.

“I’m going to be able to be with the organization and kind of learn how they operate, and driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, you already have somewhat of a feel for how they do things, and I think it’s a great fit and the perfect stepping stone.”

SHORT STROKES

Jimmie Johnson spun after cutting a tire in Friday’s opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Talladega Superspeedway. “Popped a tire going into (Turn) 3 and, looking at some photos here a second ago, it looked like the tire was already soft down the back straightaway. I guess I ran something over on the apron getting up to speed, and made, oh I don’t know, maybe a third of a lap and was spun out which is really bizarre.” Johnson kept the car off the wall avoided major damage…

Brad Keselowski led opening practice with a lap at 197.859 mph. Kurt Busch was second fastest at 197.806, as Ford drivers ganged up to take the top nine positions in the first session. Kasey Kahne paced final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at 191.222 mph. Twenty-three cars started Happy Hour in the “penalty box” under practice holds of 15 to 30 minutes for inspection failures, and only 23 drivers from the 40-car field posted times in the session.

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