Sunday, November 6, 2022
An Interview with: Christopher Bell
THE MODERATOR: We’re now joined in the media center by Christopher Bell.
Christopher, I’m just curious what your emotions have been throughout the course of today. Obviously a terrible day for the organization. Just what were your emotions throughout the course?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, about the same as what it was through the whole playoff, the last handful of weeks. You wake up first thing this morning and super excited and thrilled with life and where you’re at and the opportunity given to you. To receive news like that a couple hours before you get in the car is extremely tough.
Just really kind of puts it in perspective that what we’re doing here is not the big picture for sure. Yeah, just thinking of Joe. I just can’t imagine what Joe is going through and the entire Gibbs family. That’s the important piece.
The restart where you kind of broke traction and slid up, I don’t know if you hit the wall or not, but what happened on that restart?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I just slipped. It was early in the race or about halfway. I lost a chunk of track position there for sure. But yeah, just driving hard and slipped, and definitely hindered our race for the time being. But it seemed like we put ourselves in a position later in the race to at least have a shot at it.
Then that’s a perfect segue to the last pit stop, so whether it’s the last pit stop or what happened on that one restart, just how challenging is it when you find yourself outside of the top 10 and kind of in that dirty air? What is that challenge like for you guys?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, it’s just tough. It’s unbelievable how much your pace is better just getting — you take the same cars that are running 10th, 15th and put them in the front, and their pace is always going to be better.
There were a couple things that we definitely could have done different today, but ultimately the 22 was lights out all weekend, winning the pole and being super strong in practice. We were just kind of playing catch-up, the rest of us were playing catch-up to him. The best car won the championship for sure.
You mentioned on the radio that the engine was going, you thought at least. Was there a smell or a misshift? What made you feel that way? Obviously it seemed like you were doing pretty well a few laps later, and you obviously passed some people and started to gain some ground, too.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I don’t know. It was a weird sensation for sure. I’ll have to go back and look at the data and see what we can find, but I just felt a loss of power very quickly and kind of a change of tune with the engine, and then that lasted for a handful of straightaways before it kind of came a little bit back and I didn’t feel like I was at a huge detriment anymore.
Strange, and maybe I was just feeling stuff, I don’t know, but it would be worth looking at for sure to know what exactly what was going on.
What did you learn about yourself through the playoffs? When you look back at this year and know that you had to step up and win to advance and step up and win to advance, that takes a hell of a lot out of any athlete to just rise to that occasion. What did you learn about yourself, and how would you size up the season?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I think the season was successful. To get to the Final 4 is what every driver in NASCAR’s goals are. I’m very proud of that effort. With 40 or 50 to go, the last green flag pit stop we put ourselves in position to race for it. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Looking towards next year, I think we have potential to be stronger yet, and certainly we have room to improve at Phoenix. Yeah, I’m very content with where we ended the season and proud of the effort on this 20 car. I’m excited about the future with Joe Gibbs Racing.
As you mentioned, you received this heartbreaking news right before the race. Did you guys meet as a team? How do you go forward? And kind of what were you told from leadership or what did you tell them? What was that like for you having to do that and right before your championship race?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, that was an experience like I’ve never gone through in my entire life. In that moment you don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong and you don’t know if you should get in the race car and race, if you shouldn’t race.
Myself and Denny and I think the other JGR drivers were all in the same boat. We just didn’t know what to do. Then Dave Alpern actually came back to the racetrack right before we left for driver intros, and he told us that we need to go out there and race, and that’s what we did.
Definitely just an incredible twist of emotion and a perspective change for sure. You think that this is the big picture, and then whenever you get news like that, you realize that it’s a small picture in the grand scheme of things.
We heard Adam talk about how he sees your potential and your almost unlimited talent level. What have you learned about Adam? I heard you say on TV you want to keep the gang together. You want to go forward. What have you learned about Adam along this journey to the Championship 4?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I think that the longer that we’re together, the better that we’re going to get to be. Just his communication, his style of crew chiefing is way different than any other crew chief that I’ve dealt with and drove for in the past.
The longer we’re together, the more that we understand each other.
It’s just trying to build on that. I’m proud to drive for him, obviously. The practice has really, really helped us get closer, and I think that we can continue to build on that and make gains moving into next year, too.
One of those last pit stops, obviously, there was some trouble on the left rear tire. Can you talk about the emotions you were feeling as you were waiting for that tire to be put on the car?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, you know that that’s pretty much taking your chance away from competing for it.
But I think from what they told me, Caleb, our jack man, got his finger smashed or something, so the last thing we want is an injury on the last race of the year, so I hope he’s okay. It just wasn’t meant to be, and that’s about all you can say.
THE MODERATOR: Christopher, thank you for the time and have a great off-season. Congrats on a great year.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Happy off-season.
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