Christopher Bell showcased his origins of dirt track racing in Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway to claim his first win of the 2023 season. Bell, who has been on a streak coming into the race weekend with a series-leading four top-five finishes extends the streak to five and sets himself up for another shot at the Cup Series title with a slot in this year’s Playoffs. Toyota teammate and COTA (Circuit of the Americas) race-winner, Tyler Reddick finished second in Sunday’s race and claimed the stage two victory after leading a total of 69 laps (of 250). Camry drivers Martin Truex Jr. (seventh) and Ty Gibbs (10th) also earned top-10 finishes in the 250-lap race.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Bristol Motor Speedway
Race 8 of 36 – 125 miles, 250 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, CHRISTOPHER BELL
2nd, TYLER REDDICK
3rd, Austin Dillon*
4th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*
5th, Chase Briscoe*
7th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
11th, TY GIBBS
12th, BUBBA WALLACE
22nd, DENNY HAMLIN
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 DeWalt Powerstack Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How does this win feel on the Bristol dirt on Easter Sunday?
“Man, those were some of the longest laps of my life. This place is so much fun whether it’s dirt or concrete and whenever the cushion got up there on the top, it was very, very tough because you couldn’t drive it super hard otherwise you would get sucked in. If you got your right-front into it, you would push a little and if you got your right-rear into it, you would slide. It was just a lot of fun, but just so grateful to be here driving this No. 20 DeWalt Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. That was a lot of fun.”
Was there ever a moment where you were worried about getting the right-rear into the wall too hard?
“Three and four, that was the scary corner for me because if you got into it too hard you lost all your momentum. In one and two, I think I got into the wall a couple times, but there seemed to be a little more moisture up there and it would hold me better so I could really attack one and two, but three and four I had to be careful. I just can’t get over how long those laps feel. They’re 20-second laps, but when you’re moving the wheel 18 times a corner, it feels like it takes a long time to get around there.”
Was staying out on the last stage break the move that got you the win tonight?
“For me it was. We clearly were not the best car, but Adam (Stevens, crew chief) kept asking me what I needed and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to help me enough on a pit stop adjustment to get me where I need to be.’ I just said, let’s stay out and he believed in me and we were able to make it work.”
What was the entire last stage like and were you looking in the rearview mirror?
“No, I just try not looking in the rearview mirror and hit my marks and not make a mistake.”
TYLER REDDICK, No. 45 SiriusXM Radio Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
What was the battle like in the closing laps with Christopher Bell?
“It was a lot of fun honestly and really intense. Towards the end there, definitely felt like I had a little bit more on the edge and there in the closing laps I thought I found it. Just hate it for everybody on this SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD. Just needed to be a little bit closer than I was. Maybe with two to go I could have made that move work. Obviously, coming into three and four on the white flag lap we were going to see, but we’ll never know if it would have worked. Still a good rebound for us. We thought the track was going to take a different direction than it did as the race unfolded. As it worked out, our strategy wasn’t the best, but that was on me.”
What could you have done differently to have had a chance at Christopher Bell in the closing laps?
“We definitely had a really strong SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD and Billy Scott (crew chief) and the guys really left it in my hands from my background to make the decision on what to do there strategy-wise. I kind of missed it honestly. I really thought the track was going to go away a lot faster than that so we made the decision to stay out and pit later on. It almost worked out and we restarted eighth or ninth, but I didn’t do a good job on the restart at the beginning of stage three and got behind Kyle (Busch) and Austin (Dillon) and those guys. I think it was the difference of being able to get the Christopher (Bell) and be able to do something. Just wish I would have had that last 20 laps back, but this is the second year in a row I’ve said that.”