Christopher Bell won his first Cup Series race of 2022 at New Hampshire last weekend. Bubba Wallace finished third. Both of the team’s pit crews had great days. It’s a far cry from just a few weeks earlier.
This week the Joe Gibbs Racing driver appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, where he talked about his race, including his pit crew’s stellar performance. He then interestingly brought up Wallace and the recent swap of several members from each pit crew and how, unlike the 23XI Racing driver, he prefers not to make a lot of noise.
Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace swap pit crew members
For months Bubba Wallace publicly called out his pit crew for its repeated failures on pit road. Earlier this month, JGR did something about it when the organization announced that there would be a swap of several pit crew members from the No. 23 with Christopher Bell’s team.
The move raised more than a few eyebrows, including veteran announcer Dave Moody, who was thinking, like many fans, that Bell was getting the short end of the deal.
“If I’m @CBellRacing, I’m not feeling like a high priority right now. #NoPitCrewLove,” Moody posted on Twitter.
23XI Racing co-owner and Bell’s JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, responded.
“What makes you say that Dave?” Hamlin replied. “Especially without knowledge of why changes were made. Chemistry, speed, leadership, experience is what makes up a successful pit crew. Some teams have 2 or 3 of those but not all. Perhaps by mixing a few from one to another is helps both get all 4.”
Bell makes revealing remarks about Wallace and the pit crew swap
At Atlanta in the first race following the swap, Wallace’s newly assembled pit crew had no issues, and he finished 14th. Bell’s team performed similarly and made it through the entire race problem-free until the final stop, and it was a painful one when the No. 20 car lost a wheel on pit road.
“They killed it on pit road this week and really at Atlanta, too,” Bell said during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “They did amazing, and unfortunately, they got that black eye at the end for the mistake. But they did really well. I left Atlanta feeling optimistic about our group.”
The 27-year-old’s optimism was validated on Sunday at New Hampshire when his crew pulled off one solid stop after another, including the money stop in the final stage that was an impressive 10.57 seconds.
While it’s easy to see how Bell could be happy with his pit crew following the win at Loudon, he admitted that he welcomed the change before it happened because pit road had been a struggle for his team all season. He just wasn’t as public about it as Wallace.
“Bubba has been very vocal about his group of people and his struggles on pit road, where I typically do not,” Bell said. “I just don’t make a lot of noise. I don’t try to bring attention to myself, but my pit road issues have been just as bad as him, for the most part, and maybe even worse.
“Whenever they shook up the rosters between mine and him, I was perfectly fine with it because it couldn’t get any worse than the way that it was going. It worked out and both of our groups — the 23 and the 20 group — had a great day last week at Loudon.”
Future looks bright for both teams
Bell’s win locked him into the playoffs. Wallace’s third-place finish didn’t help him as far as the postseason is concerned, but it certainly boosted his confidence in himself and his team.
Whether or not all of it translates into continued improvement for the No. 23 car in the coming weeks remains to be seen. For Wallace, he understands if all facets of the team are working well together, it can result in top finishes. When they don’t, it can end in mid-pack or worse finishes. And public criticism of his team.