Toyota Racing – Christopher Bell
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes
TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 1, 2022) – Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to media prior to the Talladega Superspeedway race this Saturday:
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you approach these next few races with no Playoff winners as of yet?
“Yeah, it’s not the position we want it to be in, you know, going into Texas. I knew that Texas was going to be a very, very important race. And I mean, I thought that we would perform well and we did perform well before the DNF so you know, our goal leaving Texas was to be above the cutoff line and maybe have a little bit of a bonus going in into Talladega and the Roval. And unfortunately, that’s not the way it played out. And now, the only way forward is going to be to try and score as many points as we can. So going to have to race hard all day tomorrow and see where the cards fall.”
How much of a benefit is it to start on the pole knowing you’re after stage points and did you have more emphasis on starting up front against the other Playoff drivers?
“No, I mean, Speedway poles, they’re not much to do with me, it’s more so about the team and with us winning the pole here in the spring, we thought that we would have a good shot at it but you know, you can go from the back to the front and from the front to the back, you know, a handful of times before they paid the points that lap 60. So. You know, I think that winning the pole is a great testimony to the team, but really has no effect on the race tomorrow.”
Is it possible for Talladega to become more intense than it normally is for this race weekend?
“Yeah, I’m trying to think in like into last year’s Playoff race, it rained, and I made it to the end of the race. So I don’t remember a lot of wrecking in this race in the you know, a year from now. But I don’t know. I think that people will be calm especially to start the race. And then whenever it comes time to get those points it’s going to ramp up and the likelihood for a wreck is going to increase.”
How challenging is it to move up and back through the field with this car?
“So I would say that Talladega generally is a little bit easier to move back and forth than Daytona just because of the width and typically the lanes aren’t as blocked up. But you know, generally speaking, I don’t have a ton of experience on superspeedways with this car. I wrecked out really early at the Daytona 500. And then the Daytona fall race, I wrecked out early again. Talladega I guess I had an okay run but wasn’t racing for the win at the end of the race because I got trapped a lap down. So you know, I hope that the Toyotas are able to get together because it seems like that’s been at least my most successful Speedway races whenever I have a group to work with and not kind of fending for myself. Yeah, I don’t know if that really answers it. But you know, Speedway racing has not really been kind to me. So hopefully we can change that narrative tomorrow.”
Were you able to attend or view the driver’s meeting with Jeff Burton yesterday?
“Yes, I was able to call in and listen and for sure that the positives are that you know, there is stuff in the works to better specifically the rear impacts. And ironically, that’s been the majority of my crashes this year has been rear impacts and they’ve hurt really bad. So I’m glad that there’s stuff in the works to improve those style impacts. And hopefully we can just continue to improve the safety of the Next Gen car because the wrecks hurt right now.”
Do you ever look back on any of your impacts and have concerns that it was a concussion and not just a simple headache?
“I mean, it’s hard to say you know a headache is definitely not a good sign or a good symptom, but from the days moving on past that I don’t recall any symptoms that raised any red flags that says I shouldn’t get in the race car the following week. So, if that was the case, then I definitely would have raised my hand and say, ‘Hey, guys, something’s not right.’ But fortunately, I guess I’ve been able to heal or, you know, just the symptoms have gone away.”
Do you feel like you’re in a must-win situation yet?
“I mean, pretty close. I think that if we were going anywhere except Talladega it would be more likely to be a must win, but tomorrow, there’s going to be likely crashes and out of the 12 cars, I would assume that some of those 12 cars are going to have bad days. Hopefully it’s not me and you know, so with that being said, we’ll evaluate the points after Talladega and see where we’re at. So yeah, I think, you know, that is one thing that is working to my advantage in the position I am in. Because, you know, you never know what’s going to happen at Talladega. And it could be a good day for me. It could be a bad day for me, we just don’t know.”
Starting from the pole tomorrow, do you feel more pressure to gain stage points in the race?
“Yeah, that’s number one on our goals, for sure. And it was before we even qualified. So before Texas, our ideal situation was to score high points at Texas. And then basically ride at Talladega and try and, you know, miss the wrecks early on in the race and take our top 20 or whatever we were able to get at Talladega. And with us getting no points at Texas, it forces our hand to have to go through those stage points. So starting on the pole, hopefully we’re able to maintain track position throughout the first 60 laps, but it’s such a long run. And we have to have a green flag pitstop in there. So it’s just a long way to go before they pay out stage points, but for sure we have to be in the running of it. And we’re going to have to continue if we want to transfer on.”
How does wrecking in a midget compare to wrecks in this Next Gen car?
“I’m trying to think, but I guess they are similar. If you hit your head, you hit your head. And definitely the rear impacts for whatever reason or impacting your head, that’s an issue. But yeah, so I would say if you hit your head, you hit your head.”
Do you brace forward in midget car wrecks like they’re asking you to do in the Next Gen cars?
“So typically that is my brace impact. I will lock out my HANS tethers, grip the wheel and just kind of close my eyes and brace for impact, but it is interesting that’s the worst thing to do for rear impact. And I’m sure it’s the same way to sprint car too. So you know, one thing that we’ve been talking about is, you know, decreasing our Hans tethers, which ironically, Kyle Busch has been really, really hard on that ever since he had his incident at Daytona years ago. So that was whenever I was first getting started in NASCAR and he pushed that hard on me to make sure that our HANS tethers are as short as we can stand. So I’ll probably take another step and shortening those just so that my head is more contained. But yeah, definitely brace impact is, you know, lock your head forward and grip the wheel as tight as you can.”
Is it odd that the narrative has changed with this Next Gen car to dangers or concerns in stock car racing versus the dangers of sprint car racing?
“Yeah, I think it’s very, very, very surprising and not where we want to be for sure as stock car racing in general. But the good news is, is that we realize where we’re at, I think, as an industry and at least from our meeting yesterday it seems like NASCAR’s you know, they understand where we’re at to and everyone’s focused on moving forward. But yeah, it’s surprising, and I don’t think anyone would have seen it coming a couple years ago.”
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