CONCORD, N.C. — If you’d asked Christopher Bell three years ago what he’d be doing in racing now, he’ll tell you he never pictured being at the NASCAR national series level.
But fast forward to the present time, and the 22-year-old from Norman, Oklahoma was climbing into a Joe Gibbs Racing-prepared Toyota and making his first laps in a NASCAR XFINITY Series car during Tuesday’s open test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And make laps, he did.
At the end of nearly seven hours of open track time around the 1.5-mile quad-oval on Tuesday, Bell found himself 15th-fastest on the time sheets after logging a total of 150 laps, the highest number among the two dozen drivers in attendance.
Bell’s best time came on his fourth lap, a mark of 29.876 seconds at an average speed of 180.747 mph.
“Today in the XFINITY car, for me, was all about track time and just making laps,” said Bell, who will drive for JGR in seven races this season. “Obviously, JGR is one of the best teams around … as far as the car goes, though, it’s just been for me to get the hang of it and get a feel for these things before I come back here in race mode at the end of the month.”
Bell’s focus on Tuesday was rooted in getting a feel for the new machinery and finding his “comfort zone” in the XFINITY car as opposed to his Kyle Busch Motorsports truck.
“For me, it feels a lot like the super late models that I’ve driven in the past,” Bell said after a mid-morning run in the No. 18 Toyota. “That’s the biggest difference I’ve noticed, is that the XFINITY car is a lot more lively and a lot more responsive than the trucks. It’s just going to take some getting used to.”
The Sooner State native and Chili Bowl champion made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season, and is back for a second go at the title this year with KBM.
He said that unlike the mentality that comes with racing for points in his Truck ride, this new XFINITY opportunity has carried little stress in the early stages.
“I’m just out here to have fun and try to do my best … there’s really been no pressure; so far, anyways,” Bell smiled.
Bell also carried that smile when asked about what it meant for him to climb into one of Joe Gibbs’ Toyotas for the first time, officially joining the two-time and defending XFINITY champions as a driver in his own right.
“It was just a dream come true, really, when they called me. I never would have forseen myself running in the XFINITY Series, and to do it for someone like Joe Gibbs … it’s really special.”
Bell will kick off his seven-race tenure with JGR in the No. 18 Toyota on May 27, during the Hisense 4K TV 300 at Charlotte (1 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM).
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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