Bell steps out of his comfort zone

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - JULY 19: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem-Watts Toyota, sits in his car during practice for NASCAR Xfinity Series ROXOR 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 19, 2019 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contender Christopher Bell kicked off his weekend in New England by stepping out of his comfort zone.

The driver who has won three straight Chili Bowl titles and grew up racing sprint cars on dirt took a side trip to Thunder Road in Barre, Vermont to try his hand in a Late Model on a paved short track. Bell was there as a de facto ambassador, but his expectations in the race itself were somewhat lower than his usual standards.

“Ultimately, I’m just there to have a good time and hopefully draw a crowd,” Bell said on Friday at NHMS, site of Saturday’s ROXOR 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“It seemed to work. There were a lot of people there. I just didn’t want to go in there and make enemies. I wanted to go in there and have fun and put on a good show.”

Bell finished ninth against a strong field at the high-banked quarter-mile.

“Whenever I go sprint car racing, that’s my bread and butter, right?” Bell said. “I grew up doing that, and whenever I go there, I expect to win. I wanted to win last night, but I just don’t have a lot of experience in those things. Expectations were just a little bit different.”

Greg Engle