It’s time to come to terms with the fact that Christopher Bell is no longer just the face of the future at the Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Cup Series team: he is the face of the present.
When Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell won the round of 12 finale at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval to advance to the round of 8 of last year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, many chalked it up to a fluke win that wouldn’t have happened if not for a late yellow.
When he won the round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway to clinch a spot in the Championship 4, he became responsible for the two biggest clutch wins in Cup Series playoff history, based on pre-race distance below the cut line. Some chalked it up to lightning striking twice.
To a lesser yet still admissible extent, fair enough.
Now the driver of the No. 20 Toyota, who hadn’t won since April, had an amazing opportunity to win this year’s round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to become the only driver to make it to the Championship 4 in two consecutive seasons; none of last year’s other three contenders even made it to the round of 8.
He came up just a few yards shy after a late rally, with Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson punching his first Championship 4 ticket since 2021.
Bell responded the following weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway by spending considerable time running outside the top 20, and it looked like he may need another clutch win at Martinsville to get back to the winner-take-all round.
Surely lightning wouldn’t strike thrice in 12 months.
Instead, he overcame the adversity and seemingly out of nowhere managed to punch his own Championship 4 ticket at Homestead, where he had never previously finished higher than eighth place.
You can simply no longer chalk up Christopher Bell’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff to being a fluke.
Bell has suddenly established himself as a perennial championship contender, and with teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin, neither of whom have made the Championship 4 since 2021, both 17 points below the cut line heading into the round of 8 finale at Martinsville, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that Bell is no longer the face of Joe Gibbs Racing’s future.
He is the new face of Joe Gibbs Racing present.
Of course, the 28-year-old Oklahoma native still figures to be a major part of Joe Gibbs Racing’s future, both short term and long term.
But there is no longer any denying that his “next to now” moment has already arrived.
Bell has a chance to be the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the title clincher for the second year in a row. Should that situation come to fruition, he will have only not been Joe Gibbs Racing’s lone Championship 4 representative in his first season with the team two years ago, when he still made it to the postseason with a win in just his second start with the team.
He has qualified for the Championship 4 in half of his four seasons in the sport, having not made the playoffs with Leavine Family Racing in 2020.
The Championship 4 was added in 2014, so the 2023 season is its 10th season. Unless Truex overcomes his cut line deficit (or wins) at Martinsville, Bell will be tied for the all-time Championship 4 appearance percentage record of 50%. Truex and eliminated former champions Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick have all made five appearances in the round.
FanDuel Sportsbook, which is awarding $200 bonuses to fans who bet $5 on any driver, lists Bell as the second favorite behind Larson to win this year’s title. He finished in a career-high sixth place at Phoenix Raceway back in March.
Odds and availability are subject to change. Lock in your $200 today before it’s too late!
Both the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville (2:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, October 29) and the Championship 4 at Phoenix (3:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, November 5) are set to be shown live on NBC. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss either event!