Christopher Bell Admits He’s Worried: ‘I’m in a Really Scary Position’

Christopher Bell has moved beyond merely salvaging his season and arguably saving his job. In the course of overcoming a horrendous opening month of the NASCAR Cup Series season, the driver of the No. 20 Toyota has established himself as a contender to reach the Championship 4 in Phoenix.

But Bell is also a realist. Being eighth on the points list and 37 points above the cutline with nine races to go isn’t much more impressive than being the best ice hockey player in Costa Rica once you dig into the numbers.

Christopher Bell has turned his season around

Christopher Bell looks on during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. | Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Christopher Bell looks on during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 28, 2022 in Concord, North Carolina. | Buda Mendes/Getty Images

After finishing 23rd or worse in four of the season’s first five races, Christopher Bell stood a dismal 29th in points. He wasn’t the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver struggling in the NASCAR Cup Series, but the 27-year-old from Oklahoma likely was the one hearing Ty Gibbs’ footsteps most clearly.

However, Bell started turning his season around at Circuit of the Americas. Third place there, sixth at Richmond, and seventh on the Bristol dirt two weeks later lifted Bell into 15th place.

And while he only placed 27th at Sonoma ahead of the midseason break, that came after a run of five straight results in the top 10. Eighth place at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday lifted Bell two spots to No. 8 on the points list.

Interestingly, though, that did nothing to assuage what will be two months of anxiety unless he wins a race.

Christopher Bell: ‘I’m in a really scary position’

He may be eighth in points, but the more important Christopher Bell statistic is that he’s third in points among the Cup Series season’s current non-winners. With there already being 12 winners, no more than four non-winners can squeeze into the playoffs.

Ryan Blaney is comfortably ahead of the others with 555 points, and Martin Truex Jr. has 516, which puts him 73 points above Aric Almirola, the first man out if the playoffs started today. Bell is plus-37 and Kevin Harvick plus-9 over Almirola. There’s not much of a margin for error for the third-year JGR driver, particularly if some other non-winners cease to be non-winners.

“I would be surprised if it takes a win to get in,” Bell told NBC Sports during Sunday’s second rain delay. “But, with that being said, I don’t know if there’s going to be three or four points guys getting in either. The top two, Blaney and Truex, the top two non-winners have kind of separated themselves from the rest of us.

“So, for me, I’m in a really scary position because the top two points guys are quite a ways out. And then that cutoff line is getting closer and closer (with) each new winner. “That being said, we know that we need to win, and going into the season winning our way into the playoffs (late in the year) was not really ideal either. We’ve wanted to win since Day 1, and that’s our No. 1 focus.

The updated NASCAR Cup Series standings

Chase Elliott became the season’s fifth double-winner on Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway, extending his points lead. The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion previously won the rain-delayed race at Dover on May 2.

Here’s the full points rundown for the season:

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
1 Chase Elliott 586 2 3 13 4 11
2 Ross Chastain 556 2 3 13 8 11
3 Ryan Blaney 555 0 4 4 6 9
4 Kyle Busch 539 1 1 6 6 11
5 Joey Logano 534 2 2 12 5 8
6 Kyle Larson 519 1 2 7 7 9
7 Martin Truex Jr. 516 0 5 5 2 7
8 Christopher Bell 480 0 0 0 4 10
9 William Byron 468 2 3 13 4 5
10 Alex Bowman 461 1 1 6 3 9
11 Kevin Harvick 452 0 0 0 4 9
12 Aric Almirola 443 0 0 0 2 5
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
13 Tyler Reddick 400 0 2 2 4 6
14 Austin Dillon 399 0 0 0 3 6
15 Kurt Busch 397 1 2 7 5 7
16 Erik Jones 394 0 0 0 1 5
17 Austin Cindric 392 1 1 6 2 4
18 Chase Briscoe 389 1 1 6 3 4
19 Daniel Suarez 388 1 2 7 3 5
20 Denny Hamlin 374 2 2 12 3 4
21 Michael McDowell 355 0 0 0 1 6
22 Chris Buescher 325 0 0 0 1 4
23 Justin Haley 324 0 0 0 1 1
24 Bubba Wallace 313 0 1 1 1 2
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 309 0 0 0 1 5
26 Ty Dillon 276 0 0 0 0 1
27 Cole Custer 273 0 0 0 0 0
28 Harrison Burton 253 0 0 0 0 0
29 Todd Gilliland 252 0 0 0 0 0
30 Brad Keselowski 235 0 0 -10 0 2
31 Corey LaJoie 202 0 0 0 1 1
32 Cody Ware 129 0 0 0 0 0
33 David Ragan 61 0 0 0 0 1
34 Greg Biffle 24 0 0 0 0 0
35 Joey Hand 19 0 0 0 0 0
36 Jacques Villeneuve 15 0 0 0 0 0
37 Boris Said 11 0 0 0 0 0

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