Christopher Bell surprised by tire issues in Iowa practice

NEWTON, IOWA - JUNE 14: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, drives after an on track incident during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Iowa Corn 350 at Iowa Speedway on June 14, 2024 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell represented the Toyota contingent in a Goodyear tire test at Iowa Speedway on May 28.

In temperatures that were approximately 14 degrees cooler than those that greeted drivers during Friday’s practice, Bell had no issues with the tire combination chosen for Sunday’s Iowa Corn 350 (7 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Bell’s No. 20 Toyota was fast off the truck to start the 50-minute session, posting the fastest lap early in the session. But after 19 circuits, Bell’s right-front tire suddenly lost air, and his car slammed the outside wall.

Earlier, Bell’s teammate, Ty Gibbs, had suffered the same issue with the right front but managed to avoid hard contact with the SAFER barrier.

Bell said he had no warning that the tire failure was imminent.

“My only indication was whenever I saw Ty have a flat,” said Bell, who will start from the rear of the field in a backup car. “That was it.

“I didn’t have any indication in the car. We were just here — what, a month ago? — and did 50-lap runs all day long and had no issues at all. It caught me off-guard, and I know it caught my team off-guard as well.”

Tire issues weren’t confined to the Gibbs cars. Austin Cindric also will start the race in a backup No. 2 Ford after hard contact with the outside wall. The Toyota of Tyler Reddick and Chevrolet of Ross Chastain also sustained flats without damaging their cars, though Chastain’s Camaro needed the new dolly system to remove it from the track.

“They said, ‘We’re going to put you on the dolly,’ and I said, ‘What’s a dolly?’” Chastain said. “They got the thing out, snapped it together, and the car’s not torn up.”