bell: this season’s playoff sleeper?

One of the sleepers in this season’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, may come out of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable.

Third-year driver Christopher Bell has quietly been one of the most consistent drivers this season. Bell is tied with Ross Chastain for the second-most top-10 finishes this season (14).

Bell was 36th in points after two races. After a 10th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Bell had two more finishes outside the top 20, putting the No. 20 Toyota squad in a hole to start the year.

But Bell and the Adams Stevens-led team kept plugging away, knowing that their luck would change.

“I think it was just misfortune early in the year,” Bell said. “The way the schedule lays out with Daytona (Fla.) starting the season. So much is out of your control there and then we went to California and ended up blowing up an engine. I think that a lot of it was just circumstantial stuff and we performed well in those first five races, we just didn’t have great box scores.

“Leaving those races, even though we were down in the points, I was still feeling good about our group and how we performed, and we finally started getting the results that we needed after we got some momentum on our side.”

bell: this season’s playoff sleeper?

Christopher Bell won his second career NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire. (HHP/Chris Owens)

The 27-year-old found that momentum and eventually struck gold in July, with a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, his second career Cup Series triumph.

As Bell cruises into the playoffs for the second time in his career, the JGR driver feels the majority of the tracks on the 10-race slate are in his wheelhouse.

“So really, all of the tracks — minus Talladega (Ala.) – I really enjoy and have a lot of fun at,” Bell said. “The playoffs, I think, plays well into our strengths with a bunch of mile-and-a-halves. Phoenix, being the final four, is a great race track for me. We will see how we can do. Looking at the near future with Darlington (S.C.), Kansas and Bristol (Tenn.), I feel really good about all three of those tracks.

“The second round is probably going to be the hardest with Talladega and the ROVAL – I say that it’s all going to be hard — but Talladega and ROVAL definitely is a wild-card round.”

Stevens, who won two Cup Series titles working with Kyle Busch, has been Bell’s crew chief for the past two seasons.

“Adam is definitely one of the best crew chiefs that you can ask for,” Bell said. “A guy that has won two championships and before last year, I think he made the final four darn near every year with Kyle. He definitely knows the ins-and-outs of it. It is really cool to just be able to sit with him in his office.

“He has everything mapped on roughly how he expects it to lay out and how many points we need to win per event. He’s been around the block for sure, so I lean on him a lot to lead us down this path. I feel like if I do my job, we are going to have a really good shot at having a great showing.”

As the Cup Series makes its first stop on the playoff schedule this weekend at Darlington Raceway, it may help set the tone for Bell and the No. 20 crew.

Back in May, the team had a strong showing at The Track Too Tough To Tame, finishing sixth after starting third.

“Darlington is such a tough race track and the Southern 500 is such a long race that you just have to not beat yourself and guys are going to have adversity,” Bell said. “Last year, I think out of the 16 playoff drivers, darn near every one of them had their own problems throughout the race. Just making sure that you get through there clean is the No. 1 goal.

“The round of 16 has kind of been that way at least for me the last two years — just don’t beat yourself. Take your top-10 or whatever you are capable of, whether that is a top-10, top-five, top-three — you need to maximize your day and move on to the next one, but Darlington is a really easy place to get yourself in trouble and that is the No. 1 no-no going into the weekend.”

Follow @DHoffmanMedia22

MOTOR'S NEWS RELATED

Join Road & Track and Car and Driver on Our Annual Car of the Year Tests

Check out today's coolest new cars alongside editors at Performance Car of the Year, Lightning Lap, and 10Best Awards.

View more: Join Road & Track and Car and Driver on Our Annual Car of the Year Tests

Satisfying Subaru SUVs That People Love Driving and Owning

Satisfying Subaru SUVs that people love driving include the 2022 Crosstrek The 2022 Forester is another Satisfying Subaru SUV that people love Don’t overlook the 2022 Outback for a stress-free driving experience Subaru makes a reliable and safe sport utility vehicle, but that’s not all. These Satisfying Subaru SUVs ...

View more: Satisfying Subaru SUVs That People Love Driving and Owning

Holiday Rambler Eclipse RV Debuts With Theater Seats, Drop-Down Loft

It’s available with three different floor plans.

View more: Holiday Rambler Eclipse RV Debuts With Theater Seats, Drop-Down Loft

Genesis prices 2023 G80 electric car at $81,000, expands EVs to more states

Genesis on Thursday expanded the breadth and availability of its electric car lineup on its path to becoming a fully electric automaker by 2030. The luxury brand’s newest car, the 2023 Electrified Genesis G80, will cost $80,920 (including a $1,095 destination fee) when it goes on sale in September. The ...

View more: Genesis prices 2023 G80 electric car at $81,000, expands EVs to more states

This C5 Corvette Turned Off-Roader Could be Yours For Small Bucks

Photo: Caleb Hodshire/Facebook Fans of the Chevrolet Corvette and off-road vehicles now have a golden opportunity to combine their two passions for a small amount of money. A tuning enthusiast in Illinois, who specializes in Corvette conversions, is selling on Marketplace a fifth-generation (C5) 1999 Corvette built to venture ...

View more: This C5 Corvette Turned Off-Roader Could be Yours For Small Bucks

Audi heads to F1, 2025 Cadillac Celestiq, 2023 Electrified Genesis G80: Today's Car News

Audi confirmed it will enter F1 for the 2026 season. The automaker will team with a thus far unknown chassis partner to provide power units that will be built in Germany and run on synthetic fuel. Alfa Rome announced it will split with Sauber, and all points sign to Audi ...

View more: Audi heads to F1, 2025 Cadillac Celestiq, 2023 Electrified Genesis G80: Today's Car News

Genesis expands GV60, an electric SUV, availability to four more US states

Where is the Genesis GV60 available to buy Electrek’s Take Now might be your chance if you’ve been waiting to buy the Genesis GV60 EV SUV. The Korean luxury automaker announced Tuesday that its flagship electric SUV, the GV60, will be available in four more US states starting in ...

View more: Genesis expands GV60, an electric SUV, availability to four more US states

Our Long-Term 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Is off to an Unforgettable Start

With our 668-hp, six-speed-manual sports sedan, the highs are high, and the lows are low.

View more: Our Long-Term 2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing Is off to an Unforgettable Start

Dodge goes electric in style | Autoblog Podcast #744

Tested: Best Car Vacuums for 2022

China: Power to the people or to the carmakers?

Tesla premium connectivity through Starlink V2 confirmed

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning strapped to dyno despite challenges

1983 DeLorean DMC-12 with 5,397 miles for sale

Numbers of Koenigsegg CC850s increase to 70 due to high demand

Tech Deep Dive: What Makes the New Porsche GT3 RS the Most Extreme 911 Ever

4 Terrible 2022 Subcompact SUVs That Consumer Reports Predicts Owners Will Hate

Xiaomi in talks with BAIC to produce electric cars, says Bloomberg

Audi Has Decided to Enter Formula 1 in 2026 After Much Speculation

North Dakota Swing Ahead For WoO: What To Watch For

OTHER MOTO NEWS