Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to media at ISM Raceway:
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No.20 Rheem Toyota Supra, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important is this race weekend knowing this will be the season-ending race in 2020?
“That’s a good question. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about that. It is a huge deal for everybody that’s repeating and for me, being in the Cup Series next year. It doesn’t do anything for me other than track time. But for the teams, knowing this is the championship race next year, just building that notebook and trying to make sure – they come in the spring again so there’s still two more races before the championship race. It’s going to be a very, very important race and just building that notebook.”
What sets you apart from Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer heading into Homestead?
“I think just my racing experience. I’ve ran a lot more races than those guys. Just raced more.”
What do you think about the location of the PJ1 at this track? Should it be lower in the groove?
“I haven’t exactly seen it, but the higher that it is on the race track means the groove, if it comes in and if the lap time works out, that just means it will widen the race track out that much more. My worry is that it is so high that nobody is going to want to do it. If nobody runs it, it’s useless. I reached out to somebody and said, ‘Man, it would be ideal if they just made a five minute session in practice and say everybody has to be on the race track and running the PJ1. Doesn’t matter if you run 30 second lap times or 20 second lap times, you have to run in the PJ1.’ That way it activates it and guys get acclimated to it. The problem is and I’m going to ideally, if our car is good and we’re not thrashing through practice, I’m definitely going to go up there and run through it and see what it feels like. The biggest problem is that everybody is afraid of it. At Texas and Bristol, everywhere that they apply that PJ1 down, everybody is afraid of it until somebody goes and runs through it and picks up speed and now everyone does it. Someone has to be that guinea pig. If my car is good, because of the situation I’m in, if we get to a spot where I’m comfortable in practice then I’m going to go up there and start running through it and see what I can do with it.”
Is it more difficult for NASCAR to put the PJ1 down with so many series competing here this weekend?
“You want to put it as high as you can, in theory you want to put it as high as you can that way you can spread the racing groove out as much as you can. On the flip side, because it’s so high, if nobody runs it then it’s pointless. If nobody goes up there and tries it, it’s pointless. The problem we run into at Kentucky for example, at Kentucky they put it in the second groove and everybody ran it because it wasn’t way far up the race track, but then again, it made it really difficult to run side-by-side because you were still right on their door like the guy that ran the traditional line. I applaud Phoenix for spreading it out and not putting it in the second groove so if it does come in, we should be able to widen the race track out tremendously. It should be really big and a really fun race if it comes in.”
What kind of a race do you think we’ll see?
“I really hope the PJ1 comes in and that our car is close and we feel comfortable and I’m able to go work it in during practice.”
What are your thoughts on drivers bringing the caution out on purpose?
“It’s happened for decades, at least in the racing I’ve grown up in. I don’t know, I always get yelled at in NASCAR because I’ve thought about causing my own yellow several times and then my spotter is like, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it.’ I don’t know if there is any penalty for it or backlash or whatever.”
Would you prefer NASCAR to get more involved in those calls or a self-policing garage?
“I hate judgement calls. That’s why I love the Chili Bowl, it’s black and white. There’s really no rules and I think that’s the best kind of racing, the less limited or the less regulated.”
Should NASCAR talk to the drivers in those situations?
“It’s tough to say because it my position, I’ve thought about doing it and been in trouble for thinking about doing it. I don’t know what the penalty is if you do it because I’ve never done it.”
Do you feel confident about Homestead?
“I feel really, really good about Homestead for the simple fact that we’ve got a Homestead car being built for a number of weeks now. Last year our Homestead car got killed at Kansas and then we were on plan B and it got killed at Phoenix and then we had to take plan C to Homestead last year. I think we’re going to have a way faster race car this year.”
Do you like Homestead?
“I love Homestead. Honestly, I think it’s a great place to have the NASCAR finale because it’s basically what NASCAR is built off of, it’s a mile-and-a-half in length, it’s super, super slick so the drivers are very involved in the success of the team and the track is really worn out. You can run from the wall to the white line and everywhere in between. I love Homestead.”
Do you feel better this weekend leading to Homestead than you did a year ago?
“I feel good so far. Yes, I want to win the championship so bad, but ultimately it comes down to the last run. If you have a bad pit stop, we saw Erik Jones win the race off pit road two years ago and had it in his hands and one guy stayed out and picked his lane on the restart and it was over. It’s just such a toss-up that you never know how things are going to play out. I would love to win it, but if not, the goal is to get there and we’ve accomplished that. We’ve won races this year and that’s something I’m proud of. We’ve got an opportunity to win a championship and that’s all you can ask for.”
Do you feel your legacy in the Xfinity Series is secure regardless of next week’s outcome?
“Every time you start a season, your goal is to make that championship four and just have a shot at it and we’ve done that the last two years. Hopefully we can capitalize on that because we definitely didn’t last year.”
Toyota Racing PR