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If Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson was the straw that stirred the drink, then NASCAR driver Christopher Bell is milquetoast. Jackson was a New York Yankee for just five seasons; his stay feels longer four decades later because we remember him as the No. 1 story in a circus-like clubhouse.

Until Sunday in Martinsville, Bell might not have been the fourth-biggest figure among Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. That’s changed now. He’s earned a spot in his first Cup Series Championship. Along with it, he deserves the title of NASCAR’s Mr. October.

Christopher Bell possessed scant job security to start the season

Christopher Bell celebrates after winning  the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 on Oct. 30, 2022, at Martinsville Speedway. | Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Christopher Bell celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 on Oct. 30, 2022, at Martinsville Speedway. | Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NASCAR fans can cite the list of young drivers quickly discarded by Joe Gibbs Racing, where even those who win races can have a shorter life than dogs that chase cars. Heading to Daytona to kick off the season, Christopher Bell, 27, looked to be the driver who would be voted off JGR Island when the time came for the owner to promote grandson Ty Gibbs to the Cup Series.

Bell won on the Daytona road course early in 2021, but his other numbers, including finishing at least one lap down in 14 of 36 races, weren’t impressive. When he started this year with 24th place at the Daytona 500 and 36th at Fontana, thanks to a wreck and engine issue, his future looked troublesome. It didn’t get better when he still owned just one finish better than 23rd through five races.

Bell was hardly the only JGR driver struggling early, but he was the easy target for job-security speculation. Remember, few observers imagined that Kyle Busch’s situation on the team would disintegrate amidst unsuccessful negotiations between the organization and prospective 2023 sponsors.

The situation remained bumpy but did improve in the spring

A five-week run of top-10 finishes beginning at Dover on May 2 got Christopher Bell back into the top 10 in points and the playoff conversation, but he still hadn’t won. Then, Joe Gibbs Racing made a controversial move in early July to swap some members of pit crews for Bell and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace.

JGR trained and assigned crews for both Toyota outfits in the Cup Series, and the move came off as an attempt to appease Wallace, who was buried far down the points list and complaining loudly (and justifiably) about losing places and points in the pits.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Bell won two weeks later to just about lock up his spot in the playoffs even if the regular season produced more than 16 race winners.

Christopher Bell is NASCAR’s Mr. October


Christopher Bell Is Best Hope to Extend Toyota’s Championship 4 Streak

Christopher Bell went into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs as the 10th seed. But like Reggie Jackson, a career .235 hitter in the American League playoffs but a .357 hitter with 10 home runs in 27 World Series games, Bell knew how to turn on the juice.

The Norman, Oklahoma, native sailed through the first transfer with three top-five finishes. An accident and a subsequent spinout in the first half of the Texas Motor Speedway race followed by 17th place at Talladega despite winning the pole left Bell teetering on elimination. All he did in response was win on the Charlotte Roval to transfer into the round of eight.

Disaster struck again when Bubba Wallace turned Bell into collateral damage in his dispute with Kyle Larson at Las Vegas. Bell took a DNF. Placing 11th at Homestead-Miami left him 33 points below the cut line. Again, he faced a win-or-go-home scenario, this time on Sunday at Martinsville to close out October.

Ross Chastain stole the headlines, but Bell won the race. For the second time in 22 days, he advanced with a clutch victory, this time putting him into the Championship 4. Most drivers never win a playoff race. Fewer still do it in must-win situations. Bell has done it now twice in one season.

“It’s just been a roller coaster of emotions for sure,” the driver said, according to Motorsport. “The team behind me, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, they still performed to their highest level. I feel like whenever I get in the car, put my helmet on, I try and do as good of a job as I can of not letting anything bother me.”

The original Mr. October would be proud.

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