Christopher Bell already looking ahead to the Playoffs

HAMPTON, GEORGIA - JULY 08: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 08, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell won the pole position last week at New Hampshire and had hoped to make up some valuable ground toward a regular season championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. Unfortunately for Bell, he finished 29th in Monday’s rain-delayed race while his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. won the race to take the championship lead and extend the points difference with only six races remaining until the Playoffs.

Bell, 29, who won in April at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway dirt track, is currently third in the points standings, 62 points behind his teammate Truex and 45 points behind Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron.

The 2017 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Pocono race winner still goes into the weekend optimistic about his chances of challenging for that regular season title and glad his No. 20 JGR Toyota team has time to perfect some things as he tries to earn his second consecutive appearance in the Championship Final Four.

“Certainly, the Playoff schedule is really good for us,’’ said Bell, who will also compete in Saturday afternoon’s truck race at Pocono. “I think all of the tracks – minus Talladega and I think a lot of drivers would be scared of Talladega too – but all of the tracks are really good for us and the performance has been extremely well and the cars have been really fast, but execution has really lacked. That is something that really scares me going into the Playoffs.

“We’ve got a month and a half here, six races to get it cleaned up, but if the Playoffs would be starting tomorrow, I would be worried about it.’’