Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS)
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Race 18 of 33 – 211.6 miles, 200 laps
July 20, 2019
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, CHRISTOPHER BELL
2nd, Cole Custer*
3rd, Justin Allgaier*
4th, Tyler Reddick*
5th, Paul Menard*
9th, BRANDON JONES
25th, TOMMY JOE MARTINS
29th, HARRISON BURTON
30th, CHAD FINCHUM
31st, JOEY GASE
33rd, SHANE LEE
34th, TIMMY HILL
38th, CARL LONG
· Supra driver Christopher Bell captured his second-consecutive win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday afternoon.
· Bell has now won 20 races in a Toyota in the NASCAR national series with 13 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and seven Truck Series victories.
· Bell jumped to the lead on Lap 1, going on to pace the field for a race-high 186 laps (of 200) while also winning second stage after Supra teammate Brandon Jones captured the first stage win.
· Jones (ninth) also finished in the top 10 while fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Harrison Burton was involved in an on-track incident after racing in the top 10, resulting in a 29th-place finish in his Xfinity Series debut at the one-mile track.
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem-Watts Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to take control of this race so easily?
“I just had a really good race car. I’m very thankful to be able to drive these Supras for Joe Gibbs Racing and all of our partners at Rheem, Ruud, Toyota, Toyota Racing Development, man, they just provide really fast race cars and I’m the lucky guy who gets to drive them.”
How much redemption does this checkered flag bring after having a couple of the last races get away from you?
“It’s pretty good. This race track has been really good to us and our team. Like I said, I’m just really grateful to be here with Joe Gibbs Racing. A race car driver is only as good as their race cars. I’m very lucky to be driving such a fast car.”
What do you want to say to all these fans who stuck it out in the heat?
“Thank you guys for coming out. I know it was hot. It was hot inside the car. Thank you guys. You guys are the reason why we race.”
Did you get sick of all the talk that Cole Custer is the championship favorite and feel like you had to make a statement a here?
“Well, we knew we would be really good here. Whoever the favorite is, is the best guy at Homestead. We’ve got to work on that a little bit, but I’ll be ready come Homestead time.”
Was this the best car you’ve had all year?
“It was one of them. Iowa was pretty good at the beginning of the year. Wow. I just can’t say enough about this team. It’s so, so fun to be able to drive for this groups of guys. Like I said earlier, all of our partners at Rheem, Ruud, Toyota, Toyota Racing Development, they’re the ones that make this happen. I’m really thankful to be able to drive for them. They give me race cars that are as fast as this one here.”
How tough was the heat today?
“It wasn’t too bad. After doing Chicago the last two years, this was nothing.”
What kind of testament is it to this team and the car they put under you to make winning look so easy?
“Well, a race car driver is only as fast as the race car he sits in. I’m very fortunate to be able to drive for this group of guys. It was awesome. I got to ride from Thunder Road here to Loudon with one of my crew guys and we were just talking about how thankful I am to be racing for him. It’s a dream come true to be racing with this group of people because they make me look good.”
What was the closest thing to a nervous moment out there today?
“Just those restarts. Whenever you get out front, it’s a lot easier to control the race. Whenever we have those yellows, just trying to execute on the restarts and maintain the lead.”
At this point in the season is about momentum or those playoff points? What drives you right now?
“It’s all about those wins.”
Talk about your race today and how strong your Supra was today. What do you think about this overall season as you and Cole Custer keep trading off wins?
“I think this season has gone really well so far. We just need to keep clicking away here. We’re going to Iowa next week which should be another really good race track for us. We should have shot at it. Then after that it’s coming into a little bit of a rough stretch for me as a driver, the road courses. I love Bristol, but I’m not much of a road racer. We had moments where we were pretty good last year at the road courses, so hopefully we can, or I can put it all together. I know my cars will be good. I’ll have Kyle (Busch) as a teammate at Watkins Glen and hopefully I can learn something from him and be competitive.”
What do you credit to help you lead for all but 14 laps today?
“I just credit it to a great race car. That’s the biggest thing. It keeps getting pounded into my head week in and week out that the race cars win the races, the drivers just kind of are along for the ride. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) keeps giving me good race cars and that’s what the key is.”
The race cars help win races, but isn’t it something about the driver too?
“I just hold the wheel. All my job is, is to make sure the race car goes around the race track as good as it can. My team are the ones that win the races.”
Was there a concern for you at all that the car might not be as good late in the race like last week?
“A little bit. It’s definitely intimidating whenever you lead the entire race, but it was a little bit different this time because the 00 (Cole Custer) is kind of keeping up with us a little bit in the first stage, so I had a little bit more direction to point Jason (Ratcliff) on why I couldn’t continue to stretch the lead out. I guess the biggest difference was obviously the sun didn’t go down, so the track didn’t change very much, but we just executed all day. My pit crew did fantastic. We never lost positions on pit road. Restarts worked out in my favor. Never lost positions on restarts. Just everything worked out today.”
Have you been working restarts?
“That’s a good question. I don’t know if it’s something that I’ve been working on or probably more so just experience just getting to do them over and over and over. That’s the biggest thing. You learn from the restarts that don’t work and you try and not do that again. I don’t know. For whatever reason it just worked out for us today. We’ve had really good – I keep saying race cars, but restarts they do come down to the race car too. Sometimes you don’t have the right gear ratios in the car or your setup doesn’t allow the rear tires to work as good. The last several weeks, Kentucky and this week, our restarts have been really good. We’ve had the right package.”
JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 20 Rheem-Watts Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Comment on your short track program and Christopher Bell’s ability to implement it.
“You know since we started last year, it’s just been, it’s been pretty good. We hit on a package that works for us and obviously with Christopher’s background, I think that kind of suits his driving style. Especially at tracks like this where you get into traffic pretty quick and you have lane options. I feel like we were a little bit quicker than those guys today, but when we would really stretch it out is when we get to lapped traffic and start working the lapped traffic just better than those guys. It fits his style. I mean I think our intermediate program is strong as well, but we’ve definitely been good on these short tracks. That’s been our bread and butter so far, so we’ll just keep capitalizing on that.”
The race cars help win races, but isn’t it something about the driver too?
What do you see in Christopher and what do you see in his potential going from here?
“I get this question every time we come here. It’s awesome. I love it. Obviously I think his record shows it. I heard someone today in qualifying mentioning his win-to-start ratio, which I didn’t even realize, I’m like wow, that’s amazing. I mean that’s in a different category right there. What else do you say? I think that speaks for itself. I think for as far as his future goes, I mean, like I say every time I get asked this question, he can go as far as he wants to go. I think that he’s on the right the path. I don’t think he has to be in a hurry about it. He’s doing good things right now. He’s learning. I think there’s a lot of cars out there that would love to have put one of his seats in it. He’s being patient and he’s doing a good job of executing each and every week and building on that. We’ll just see what tomorrow holds. I think he’s got good things in store for him.”
Is there any driver you can compare Christopher to that you’ve worked with?
“I hate doing that. I don’t think so. His driving style is different. I’ve worked with Kyle (Busch) and we know he’s amazing. He’s probably one of the best that this sport has ever seen. They have different driving styles. Christopher does things at this stage of his career better than Kyle did, but Kyle did things better than Christopher. I think my challenge to Christopher each and every week is hey, these are the areas that we need to grow and these are the areas that you do well and come natural to you that are amazing and I worked with some great drivers, so I feel like I have a pretty good measuring stick on where he needs to be there. But then these are the areas we need to work on and the great thing about him is he takes it to heart. He says ‘alright, I’m going to work on it’ and every week he goes out and he does better in those areas. I think he just – I don’t think we really know right now. I mean, he’s sitting beside me, so it’s tough to speak too much. We won’t get him out of the room and his head will keep swelling up. He’s pretty good. He’s pretty good. Like I said, I think his record speaks for itself and we’re going to keep him humble so he keeps digging, but he actually does a good job of keeping himself humble. You know that statement ‘it’s all about the race car’? I think everybody in this room knows better than that. I’ve had a lot of good race cars and couldn’t win races with them without the right guy behind the wheel. We’re doing good things. I’m proud of him. He just keeps working hard and it’s exciting where he’s going to go in the future.”
BRANDON JONES, No. 19 First Foundation Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
Was this one of the hottest races for you today?
“This was up there with Charlotte. Maybe a little bit hotter, but all in all, I think I’m physically fine after it, just tough conditions. You were really struggling to pass people. A lot of people slide jobbing – about the only way to get around anybody. We got buried there. We made a good call. I thought that was going to be great for us to stay out and get that stage win, but we just fell back too far and then just couldn’t hang with the guys once they got going.”
HARRISON BURTON, No. 18 Dex Imaging Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 29th
Walk us through your view of the racing with Paul Menard and his contact with you that put you in the wall.
“He was holding us up for a long time in the race. I raced him clean for a long time in the race, honestly the whole race. We got a restart there and the first thing that he said he was mad about was I hit him on the restart, but I was on the apron and he turned down across my nose and then got mad at me about that and then I barely touched his door and got out of the gas because I didn’t want to hit him any harder than I did. Then I let him go and I passed him clean and he wrecked me. Frustrating. He didn’t really seem to care and that’s fine for him. I’m just going to go out and beat him on the race track. That’s all you can do to show these guys that I’m here to play. I’m not here to get pushed around anymore. I’m just going to go out and win.”
As a young driver how do you handle it when a Cup Series driver comes up and wants to have a conversation after the race?
“I went to him. I don’t care what series he races in or who he is. He raced me in a terrible way and I just decided I needed to hear from him what his story was. I didn’t like his story, so I’ll race him accordingly.”