BRISTOL, TENN. - Christopher Bell could be compared to a minor leaguer who is just itching for that call to the big leagues.
He’s ready, but there is no where to put him. Bell might be forcing the issue.
Just google Bell’s name. One of the first articles out there is a list of five drivers who Bell could replace on the Monster Energy Cup Series in the 2020 season.
“It’s cool, right? I’m honored that people want to know where I’m going to go. That’s better than people not caring,” said Bell, a 24-year-old native of Oklahoma. “It’s really cool. I don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s a distraction just because it kind of goes in one ear and out the other.
“It’s not anything that I have any input in or it’s not like I can control that. The only thing that I can control is finishing races and hopefully winning races.”
He has been doing just fine. The driver of the No. 20 Rheem Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing captured the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It was his first win in just his third start at Bristol, and his second win of the season, fifth top-5 and sixth top-10 finish in just seven races this season.
No wonder most of the questions directed toward Bell during Friday’s media availability related to next year.
“No. I haven’t. It’s still early in the year,” said Bell, when asked if he had heard about plans for 2020. “Normally I don’t figure out where I land until August-ish. We’re definitely way early in the year to know where I’m going to be.”
He knows where he wants to be.
“Obviously I want to go to Cup,” said Bell, who was quoted as saying last season that he didn’t want to ‘waste another’ year on the Xfinity Series. “I never meant that phrase [last year saying] I don’t want to be in [the] Xfinitiy [Series] because I love the Xfinity Series.
“I love the XFinity cars. I feel like they race really well. Ultimately I get to drive race cars for a living, so that’s pretty cool.”
He would, however, like to be in the big leagues. He has proven his worth, capturing the Trucks championship in 2017, and had a terrific first season on the Xfinity Series last year, winning seven races and placing fourth in the points standings.
Yet, the call to Cup hasn’t come. He was asked if he was being blocked by Erik Jones - the 2018 Daytona 500 winner - who drives the No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing.
“I never really pictured Erik being my hole. If you look at the Gibbs camp right now, I can’t really picture anyone being in my hole because all four of their Camrys are running exceptional right now,” Bell said. “If you watch any of the races, all four of them are right in the top five.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going to land. I’m just enjoying the ride right now.”
Bell certainly isn’t sulking about his position. He is learning and winning along the way. He completed 300 laps on Saturday, leading 73 of them, edging out fellow Dash 4 Cash competitor Tyler Reddick for the win.
“I think the biggest thing I had to learn is just distance racing. It’s so difficult for me and it still is so difficult for me,” said Bell, who finished second in the August race at Bristol last season. “Going from sprint car races to stock car races, that’s just something you never learn is how to distance race. The learning curve is pretty steep in that aspect...
“You just have to go through it. Now that I’ve gone through it a little bit I feel like I’ve kind of grasped a little bit of it, but there’s still a lot to learn.”
He was asked how difficult that transition will be at the next level. He, of course, doesn’t know yet, but would certainly like to find out.
“We don’t know when I’m going to go to Cup, so we don’t know what the rules package will be. I certainly love what I’m driving right now,” Bell said. “They’re really, really fun to race and hopefully you guys are seeing that too. I feel like the Xfinity races have been excellent.”
So has his experience at Bristol. He won in just his third race at Bristol, placing second in the August race last fall. He did one better on Saturday.
“Bristol is one of my favorites,” he said. “After the fall race last year I was like man, I wish we could go to Bristol next week. Here we are. I love this race track. It’s one of my favorites.”
Bell also claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash award, having finished ahead of three other competitors vying for the same prize.
His plans for the money? It’s not a surprise.
“Hopefully work on my future sprint car team,” Bell said.