Interstate Batteries Racing: Christopher Bell Daytona 500 Advance

JGR Photo

● Guess Who’s Back: For just the second time since 2007, Interstate Batteries will return as a primary sponsor for the Daytona 500, sharing space with DeWalt. Interstate Batteries’ primary sponsorship at the Daytona 500 started in 1992 with the inception of Joe Gibbs Racing, its first of 16 primary sponsorships at The Great American Race from 1992 through 2007 with drivers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and J.J. Yeley.

● National Battery Day: As coincidence would have it, Sunday, Feb. 18 not only marks the 66th running of the Daytona 500, it also happens to be National Battery Day. To celebrate, Interstate and co-primary sponsor DeWalt will be doing a giveaway to fans on their social media platforms. Interstate Batteries would like nothing more than to finish its National Battery Day celebration in victory lane, a place the company landed in just its second appearance in the Daytona 500 back in 1993.

● Bell will be making his fifth career start in The Great American Race. His first Daytona 500 came in Feb. 2020, driving for Leavine Family Racing. He started 17th in that race and finished 21st after being involved in an accident during one of multiple overtime periods.

● The Dale and Dale Show: With Interstate’s return to the Daytona 500 for the second year in a row, the 2024 edition of The Great American Race is now 31 years removed from the “Dale and Dale Show.” In the 1993 Daytona 500, Interstate Batteries and JGR driver Jarrett beat the late Dale Earnhardt across the finish line with Jarrett’s father Ned in the CBS broadcast booth calling his son’s run to the checkered flag. It was one of the most memorable moments in Daytona 500 and NASCAR history, an exciting call before a live audience on national television. The win was the first of many for JGR, and the first for sponsor Interstate Batteries just a year after its iconic partnership kicked off in 1992.

● The 2024 season marks Bell’s fifth fulltime season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Bell has eight career Cup Series starts on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. Of those eight starts, His best career points-paying finish was a strong third-place run in last year’s Great American Race. Bell is looking to build on the momentum of back-to-back appearances in the Championship 4 of the Cup Series Playoffs with the No. 20 team and two-time championship-winning crew Chief Adam Stevens as they look for their first Daytona 500 win and championship together.

● Outside of the NASCAR Cup Series, Bell has made five career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Daytona. Bell has brought home two top-five finishes and four top-10s in those five Xfinity Series starts.

●  To earn a spot in this year’s Daytona 500, drivers must first compete in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the 40-car field for the Daytona 500. Bell has just four career Duel starts on his resume but has brought home top-five finish in all four qualifying races, with a career-best Duel finish of second last February.

 ● Before drivers compete in the Duel, they race the clock in single-lap qualifying on Wednesday night. The two fastest cars are locked into the Daytona 500 field while the remaining drivers are split between the two Duel races. Qualifiers in odd-numbered positions are in the first Duel and qualifiers in even-numbered positions are in the second Duel.

Christopher Bell, Driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries/DeWalt Toyota Camry TRD

What is your favorite and least favorite parts of the Daytona 500?

“My favorite part of the Daytona 500 is just the big-event feel – it’s a really big race and you can tell that. You have probably the most casual fans that we have over the entire schedule that tune in for the Daytona 500. My least favorite thing is just the style of racing – the restrictor-plate racing is not my favorite. It is what it is. It is the Daytona 500 and it’s the biggest one of the year. It definitely has that big-event feel. We have Interstate and DeWalt along with us this year and we couldn’t be more excited about the race and trying to get those guys to victory lane in our biggest race.”

How much of a help will it be having more Toyotas in the race on Sunday, and in speedway racing in general?

“I think it is always positive to have more cars at speedway races. I think all of us Toyotas are going to do the best we can to help each other, but having two more cars in these races is definitely helpful for us as a whole.”

With no practice before qualifying again this year, how will that change the Duel races, if at all?

“It didn’t change them too much last year. The Duels are the best practice that you can get over the course of the weekend. It is going to be a very valuable test session. If you are good in the Duels, I don’t foresee you doing very much practice between the Duels and the 500, but if you struggle, there are practices in-between to try to work on your car to get it better.”

How much more confident are you and how different do you feel heading to Daytona after the season you had last year?

“I am excited about building off of last year. Daytona is just its own animal, and I don’t really think anything that happened last year will have an effect on what will happen at the Daytona 500. Last year, we were able to finally finish one of these races and finish well, so hoping we can be there at the end and see what happens with our Interstate Batteries/DeWalt Camry.”

Is driver momentum carrying from one season to the next a real thing?

“I think so. Driver confidence is, for sure. There are so many changes throughout the offseason with body design and manufacturers changing their cars, so nobody really knows what we have until we get on the track, and Daytona being a superspeedway is not really indicative of what we are going to see for the rest of the season. The 500 is the ‘Granddaddy of Them All,’ and I’m excited to get the season going and see what we have.”

How do you approach the last laps of the Daytona 500?

“It’s unbelievable. Anyone that has not driven in a Cup Series superspeedway race, I don’t feel like they understand the difference between lap one, even lap 150 to lap 200. The light switch goes off and the intensity just skyrockets, and guys just start pushing and shoving where you are not supposed to be pushing and shoving. The thing I hate about superspeedway racing is you never feel like you are in control in those moments when you are getting pushed around. It changes dramatically in those last couple of laps.”

Do you have a spot that you want to be in those final laps?

“Ultimately, you don’t want another manufacturer behind you because you are going to be left out to dry, but even if it is a teammate, you are not going to just get pushed to the end. The best thing you can hope for in the end is to have a shot. Everyone asks the magic question – would you like to be leading or second going into the last lap? Well both of them are going to have a shot to win, so either one of them is not too bad. You just want to have an opportunity to take the checkered flag and you have to be in the top so many rows to be able to do that.”


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