By Dustin Albino

Through the opening two months of the NASCAR season, Christopher Bell’s No. 20 team was soaring. In the opening seven points-paying races, Bell had five top-10 finishes and punched his playoff ticket virtue of a commanding victory at Phoenix Raceway.

But the last three weeks have been less than ideal for Bell.

The string of misfortune began at Martinsville Speedway when Bell had a tire issue before spinning during the final stage of the race. In a relatively tame short-track event, finishing four laps down resulted in a 35th-place finish for Bell.

The following week at Texas Motor Speedway, Bell finished runner-up in the opening stage. His race spiraled from there, backing his No. 20 car into the fence in the second stage, triggering a three-car pileup with Alex Bowman and John Hunter Nemechek. Later in the stage, Bell brought out another caution but rebounded with a battered car to finish 17th.

Bell’s most recent setback came at Talladega Superspeedway, where he was involved in a stack-up incident. Chase Elliott got into the rear of Justin Haley, turning him into the No. 20 car. Bell nosed into the outside wall. He finished last.

With an average finish of 30th over the last three races, Bell‘s primary objective for this weekend at Dover Motor Speedway is to complete all the laps.

“We need to try to get a finish,” Bell said. “We have not done that the last three weeks. Last week at Talladega, you know how that‘s going to be going into it. But certainly, Texas was disappointing on my end to spin out when I had such a competitive car. At Martinsville, we had that tire issue.

“It‘s been a rough three weeks, but we‘re looking forward to this one.”

Bell knows the team has potential, despite its mixed results. The No. 20 team is the only team to qualify for the Championship 4 in each of the last two seasons. He’s also gone through similar dry spells in those two seasons. After winning the Bristol dirt race last year, the No. 20 team went 16 races without scoring another top-five finish, in August at Watkins Glen International.

But Bell won’t sugarcoat that it’s been a frustrating start to the 2024 season. Over the last three races, he’s dropped seventh position in the regular season championship standings to 13th.

“To say this year has been disappointing, I think, would be a true statement,” Bell added. “We had such high expectations, our pit crew is doing really well, which we felt was a struggle at times throughout the last couple of years and we still haven‘t been able to put it together yet. Hopefully, the best is ahead of us still.”

Bell is optimistic about the next few races on the schedule. Dover is among his favorite tracks on the schedule and has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts with Joe Gibbs Racing. Next week brings Kansas Speedway where Bell has four top 10s in the last five races. Toyota also has a four-race winning streak in “The Sunflower State.”

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