Toyota Racing – Christopher Bell
NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS)
Watkins Glen International – August 3, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to the media at Watkins Glen International:
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Will you be content to run another year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Joe Gibbs Racing?
“Yeah, absolutely. I love racing in the Xfinity Series and it’s a great place for me to get seat time, and compete with some of the best drivers in the world. If the opportunity comes to go Cup Series racing, if it was allowed, I’d prefer to run both full-time Cup and Xfinity Series. I’m going to be excited either way and as of right now, it looks like I am going to be running the Xfinity Series. I am super excited about that. I have a great crew chief and a great team here at Joe Gibbs Racing. The No. 20 group does a great job.”
Are you going to practice today even though it’s wet?
“I got here a little bit earlier and we did the rookie track rides. And my crew chief (Jason Ratcliff) did not want to hit the track if it’s wet, since it doesn’t appear it’s going to rain tomorrow. Then I was informed at the rookie meeting that all rookies must attempt a lap today – no matter the track conditions. So, yes. I will hit the track today even if it rains.”
Did you give NASCAR Xfinity Series Managing Director Wayne Auton a high-five after that?
“I did. I thought my best-case scenario was for this race this weekend was for it to rain. I am excited. I was looking forward to racing in the rain. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
What’s going through your mind with this being your first time here?
“It’s exciting. Watkins Glen is a really fast road course. It’s a place I have never been before. I’ve tried to do all of my homework and prepare myself as much as I can. Road course racing is something I’ve enjoyed in the past. Especially at Canada (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park). Last year, at Road America in the Xfinity cars, I struggled. That definitely has my confidence down coming into here. I don’t know what to expect as far as results for tomorrow. I am going to try to hit all of my gears and keep it on the race track and roll it into the trailer at the end of the race.”
Do you believe it’s out of possibility that you can get a win here?
“No, it’s not out. I still have the chance to do it. My car and crew chief 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 am 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. I’ve never been here before and I am going to try to not overstep my boundaries and make sure we race our primary car and not the backup.
What’s your goal with these road course races coming up?
“I don’t know. I’ve got an open mind. If I finish 18th tomorrow and the thing rolls into the trailer, I don’t know if I’m going to be disappointed. Obviously we have the point lead right now, so keeping the point lead would be magnificent through this road course stretch. Like I said, my car is fully capable of winning this race, so maybe I’ll go out there and pick it up somewhat fast, but just making sure that I don’t miss shifts and finish the race, that’s my number one goal and I think I’ll be pretty happy if that happens.”
Are there any plans to get you in a Cup car for one or two races just to get your feet wet?
“Nobody has said anything of that to me, so there hasn’t been any talk of that yet. Right now, we’re right in the middle of closing out the regular season with three road courses in front of me, so I’ve got my hands full right now, especially going into road course season here and trying to maintain our points lead. Nothing’s been talked about or said to me about that.”
When you make the step to Cup, what do you look for? Do you take a mid-level team or wait for the best possible team that you can get on?
“That’s a good question. For me, I don’t plan on going anywhere else other than within the Toyota organization and hopefully in the Joe Gibbs Racing organization. These guys, especially Toyota, have been with me since day one and I’m in great hands with them. I’ve always said, as a kid growing up that my goal was to drive race cars for a living – it didn’t matter what it was, just drive race cars for a living. I’ve gotten to do that for several years now, so I’m living my dream right now and whatever the future brings, it brings, but I definitely am going to stay with the Toyota organization.”
So the rumors that someone else is courting you…
“Yeah, there’s no rumors there.”
How would you feel about running double-duty in a Cup car for a one-off race?
“For me, I’ve always been a fan of racing as much as I can, even whenever it was back in the dirt days. If I could run a sprint car and a midget on the same night, I always felt like it was beneficial, so if the opportunity presented itself to do double-duty on a weekend, I would take it. I would be fully prepared for the Cup car to benefit me on the Xfinity side.”
Any plans to participate in the Knoxville Nationals?
“My girlfriend’s not happy with me, but unfortunately we’re not going to get to go to Knoxville this year. Just with the road courses and I’m actually doing double-duty next week at Mid-Ohio, just to get more track time, so with all the stuff going on, I won’t be able to be there this year.”
Overall, how do you feel you’ve progressed on road courses throughout your career?
“If I wouldn’t have done Road America last year, I would be pretty happy with the road course racing and excited going into this stretch here. At Canada, the first year I ran fifth and I was a little off pace. Then the second year I went to Canada, I won a practice session and was fairly competitive and I was really happy with that, but Road America, I was not competitive at all. Road America’s got my confidence pretty down going into Xfinity road course racing. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I’ll know more after – I don’t know if we’ll get true practice today, but I’ll know more after the race tomorrow for sure.”