NASCAR: The case for — and against — all 16 playoff drivers

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

NASCAR playoff contenders: No. 5 – Christopher Bell

In 2022, Christopher Bell was staring down elimination and was in a must-win situation in the finales of both the round of 12 and round of 8. He went on to win both of those races and make a rather surprising appearance in the Championship 4 to solidify himself as a title contender.

Now with a deep playoff run under his belt, Joe Gibbs Racing’s only Championship 4 driver from a year ago will look to take his playoff performance one step further.

The case for Christopher Bell

Bell has proven himself to be a driver who can come up in the clutch on a regular basis, as seen during his 2022 run. No champion will be crowned without having faced some sort of adversity along the way, and he made it apparent that he is not fazed by the immense pressure.

Bell’s 2023 regular season was rather similar to his 2022 regular season, with the Oklahoma native netting just a single victory, but having consistent speed on all kinds of tracks. The fact that he only has one win to his name doesn’t really tell the full story of his season, as he had winning speed at tracks such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the Chicago Street Course as well. He led the most laps at the latter.

With Bell in almost an identical position to where was last season, his 2022 playoff run may just be the stepping stone to something even bigger in 2023.

The case against Christopher Bell

While Bell did win in the clutch last year, it can’t be ignored how those wins came to fruition. The more apparent of the two was his first clutch playoff win, which came at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

With less than 10 laps to go, Bell found himself running in seventh place, effectively eliminated if he did not get a late race caution and some chaos. Fortunately for him, a caution did come out for a piece of a sign breaking loose and falling onto the track.

On the following restart, intense racing caused Chase Elliott to spin out of second place and allowed Bell to jump up to second. After another caution, Bell passed leader Kevin Harvick on the ensuing restart and rode off into the sunset – and the round of 8.

It was undoubtedly a ticky-tack win with a big stroke of good fortune that allowed for everything he needed to fall into place. Chances are that this type of luck probably won’t be repeated again if Bell struggles in an early round. If he fails to win a few playoff races like he did last year, it may be tough for him to make it back to the Championship 4.