Despite playoff berth, Bell says he’s missed lots of opportunities

Christopher Bell’s regular season was a bit deceiving.

He and the No. 20 team from Joe Gibbs Racing finished fourth in the championship standings with a win on the Bristol dirt. There were also two stage wins and 259 laps led, but there were plenty of misses along the way that, even as he’s qualified for the postseason as the seventh seed, leave him disappointed.

“Not ideal,” was how Bell described the first 26 races. “What’s crazy is we finished fourth in the regular season standings, which is amazing. If you would have told me from February 1st that you’re going to finish fourth in the regular season standings, I would be like, ‘Yeah, you know what, I’ll take that.’


“But after living it, there were so many more opportunities on the table that got left there. That was very disappointing and encouraging at the same time because I know that we have all of the pieces to not be underrated. [We] just have to put them all together, and if we do put them all together, I think greatness is ahead of us.”

Bell earned 13 top-10 finishes in the regular season, which is two less than the 15 that teammate Martin Truex Jr. put on the board. Truex leads the series in the category. Bell earned six top-five finishes.

Those are numbers that Bell is unfamiliar with because he simply doesn’t look or keep track. but what he will emphatically say is that there were many more in “the palm of our hands” that they let slip away.

“I know that our success could be much greater,” Bell said.

The late summer stretch – the 10 races leading into the postseason – shows the inconsistency the team fought. Bell had four top-10 finishes, three finishes 20th or worse and three poles.

“It was not experimenting at all,” Bell said, not hiding from consistency being his team’s Achilles’ heel. “I can probably rattle off four or five races right now that were easy top fives and potential race wins if we just get to the end of the race. It certainly just comes down to execution.”

He hopes a reset with the start of the postseason will level things out and put the peaks and valleys behind the team. The good news is that he’s confident they’re headed in the right direction, and there were solid performances in the last few weeks that were enough of a boost that, despite the negatives, Bell said the team is postseason-ready.

“Indy road course was a good steppingstone,” Bell said. “We were able to get out there with a solid top 10. Watkins Glen was really good, so I feel really good about that. I like the schedule in the playoffs; it fits us really well.

“I think we are ready, yes.”

Joe Gibbs Racing swapped the pit crews for Bell and teammate Ty Gibbs going into the first race of the postseason at Darlington Raceway (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, USA). Bell was the fastest driver in practice Saturday and followed it up by earning the pole for the Cook Out Southern 500.

Story originally appeared on Racer