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NASCAR Cup New Hampshire

Bell believes his best is yet to come this NASCAR season

Christopher Bell is firmly locked in the 2023 NASCAR Cup playoffs and still in contention to win the regular season championship and yet not nearly satisfied with his year thus far.

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem Toyota Camry

Bell’s victory in last season’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway kicked off what ended up as his best year yet in the Cup Series.

The 28-year-old native of Norman, Okla., ended the 2022 season with three wins – two in the playoffs – and qualified for the Championship 4 at Phoenix. He ended a career-best third in the final standings.

Bell and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team already have a win this year – at the Bristol Dirt Track – and he’s currently fourth in the series standings but Bell believes he and his team have the potential for much more.

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem / WATTS Toyota Camry

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Rheem / WATTS Toyota Camry

Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

“I don’t think that it’s all come together yet, no,” Bell said. “We’ve definitely had some more positive moments, but we’re still struggling to put all the pieces together. Hopefully, that means it’ll come later on in the season.

“But I don’t think we’ve got it put together yet.”

As Bell looks to repeat his win of a year ago this Sunday at New Hampshire, he still is in a much better position than he was at this time last season.

The fight for playoff points

The lack of playoff points made Bell’s advancement through the playoff rounds last year a struggle and there is a big chunk of those points (15) still on the table if could capture the regular season title. He sits 37 points behind leader William Byron with seven races remaining.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but definitely, I’m focused on it a lot,” Bell said of keeping up with his position in the standings. “We’re in a unique spot because there’s a lot of cars that are still in the hunt, right?

“So, I’m racing for points against a number of cars. Last weekend obviously the No. 24 of William (Byron) had a great weekend, but the rest of the guys kind of were all in the same boat.

“I didn’t lose any ground to anybody except for William, and I think Kyle Busch is now (ahead) of me (by one point) where he was a little bit behind me. All it takes is one bad race and that safety net that William has is gone.”

Race winner Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry

Race winner Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

With seven races to go before the 16-driver field is set for the playoffs, five drivers are within 70 points of Byron – a difficult but not insurmountable deficit. A driver can score up to 60 points by winning both stages and a race.

With New Hampshire followed by the season’s second trip to Richmond, Va. – where Bell finished fourth in the spring – he is in an excellent position over the next two weeks to make big gains.

“It definitely appears that short tracks are good for us at the moment,” Bell said. “I would expect us to be competitive at Loudon but the field is tight. Looking at Phoenix earlier in the year, the Hendrick cars were really good. Kevin Harvick is always awesome at Loudon. Kyle Busch is always awesome at Loudon.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a homerun by any means, but I would expect the Toyotas to be strong on this style track.”

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