NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

NASCAR : Christopher Bell eyes more aggressive approach after earning first Cup Series win

NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell celebrates winning the O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. [Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports]
NASCAR Cup Series driver Christopher Bell celebrates winning the O'Reilly Auto Parts 253 at Daytona International Speedway. [Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports]

Before the NASCAR Cup Series season began, Christopher Bell had realistic goals for himself in his second season on the top circuit and first with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Compete for top-10 finishes early in the season, and work toward challenging for victories down the stretch.

With a win in his second race of the year — at the Daytona road course — Bell’s modest goals went out the window.

Now, the 26-year-old from Norman is locked into the playoffs with 24 races left in the regular season to build his experience in his second Cup season, beginning with Sunday’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 2:30 p.m. on Fox.

Q: You haven’t had a lot of experience on road courses over your career. What was the key to your victory?

A: Just seat time. Just being able to do it more, and it seems like I’ve been able to get a little bit better at it. And I think my car was pretty fast, too. I definitely wasn’t comfortable with road courses when I started my stock car career. We had one race a year in Canada in the Truck Series. The first time we went there, I was OK, but definitely needed to get better. By the second time I went there, I was pretty competitive, so I feel like I’ve gotten better over the course of the years, and doing it more has helped out.

Did your first Cup win come a little quicker than you expected?

I would say yeah. I think if you asked anybody, they wouldn’t have expected me to win at a road course on the second race of the year. But I was really fast on the road courses last year, so I knew we could be competitive going in. I didn’t know we would win the race, but I expected to be competitive, and you just never know how things are gonna play out. I definitely think that going to Homestead and Vegas, looking ahead at the races on the schedule, there’s no reason why we aren’t gonna be competitive for the weeks to come. So I think we should have a shot at a couple more of these things.

Does the win change your approach or strategy for the rest of the season?

Yeah, it helps us out, because we’re able to be more aggressive and try and win more races now that we’re locked into the playoffs. Essentially, we have 24 more races to try and get bonus points. That’s the only thing we’re focused on at the moment is getting those bonus points.

You’ve won a lot at every level, but went through a winless season as a Cup rookie last year. Did that long layoff make this victory even sweeter?

Oh, man, absolutely. You know, 2020 was the one of the lowest points of my career. That was extremely disheartening last year, not running as good as everybody expected us to. So it’s good to be able to start off strong here in 2021.

What was this week like for you with all of your family and friends and fans in Oklahoma who were part of your growing up experience wanting to share in the excitement of your victory?

Yeah, it’s been pretty hectic, man. I’ve just been trying to take it all in and enjoy every minute of it. It’s something I’m gonna cherish for the rest of my life, for sure.

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›