Toyota Racing – NCS Loudon Quotes – Christopher Bell

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to media after winning the pole for the NASCAR Cup Series event at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday:


CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem-WATTS Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

“I was very surprised with how hard the cars are to drive in practice and qualifying too. Everyone was slipping and sliding around. I think it is going to be a different race than we saw last year with the downforce change and the tire change.”


What do you enjoy about this place?

“I do enjoy it. It is a place where your driver technique, and your feet, and your hands dictate a lot of what the car does. If you are a little bit loose, you can kind of change your line around. There is a bunch of banking transition and seams and at one point they put PJ1 down that would manipulate your car, and now they don’t put the grip down, but there is a little bit left. It just a place where you can really change how the car is driving. You are not stuck to one driving style or one line. It is a place you can find a way moving forward as long as your car is in the ballpark.”


Can you just run away from the pack tomorrow?

“I hope I can. I don’t think that is realistic. There are a lot of great cars, great drivers right behind us. Qualifying today was a matter of not screwing up – it was a very different qualifying session, because most of the time you can maximize your car, where today it was a matter of not taking yourself out of it. It was so easy to make a big mistake and lose a lot of lap time. We saw Ty Gibbs have an issue, and then Joey Logano have an issue in the second round. I think once we get into the race we are going to have a lot of comers and goers.”


Is track position the key to winning here?

“I honestly believe that track position is going to be the least important it has ever been at this race track or at least compared to what it was last year. The amount of sliding around that we did today, the lack of grip – I think the cream is going to rise to the top – the good drivers, the good cars are going to be able to pass and get their way to the front. I start at the front, hopefully, we can stay up there, but this is a place where people will try different strategies like staying out or getting two tires or short-pitting or long-pitting, whatever the situation may be, where you are not guaranteed to start up front and then stay there all day. Hopefully with the conditions being hot and slippery, we are able to pass a little bit easier when you get back in traffic.”


How did the new tire feel today?

“A huge difference from last year’s race to this year’s race. A huge difference from middle of April till now. I was shocked when I got out there and the lack of grip, we had compared to what we had at the test and the only thing that is different is the ambient conditions. I think the tire is going to be a step in the right direction. It is hard to pinpoint what the difference is in the tires because whenever we were here 12 months ago, we had a spoiler that was four times what we have now. I think with the tire with the aim to have more fall off – it is slicker over a long run with a little itty-bitty spoiler in the back, you are going to see a lot of sliding around and that is what the drivers want.”


What is your approach this year compared to last year?

“We are in a really, really important battle for the regular season championship. There are a lot of guys in the hunt. I have one of the best racecars that I’ve had all year this weekend, we need to capitalize on that. The 20 group needs to capitalize on that and capture as many points as we can. This is a pivotal race for the regular season championship.”


What is the difference from last year when you are trying to secure a Playoff spot compared to this season?

“It is very similar. I would say it is almost identical except for the people that you are watching on a regular basis are different. Whenever I was on that Playoff bubble, you are paying attention to the guys on the Playoff bubble and really anyone behind it that maybe in contention to win. I remember going back to Sonoma last year – I had a terrible race, and we were right around that Playoff bubble line and the entire top-three or top-five was behind me in points, so someone who won the race was going to bump me out of it. I’m sure that everyone that is in that bubble spot is doing the same thing, but here we are – a year later – and you are focusing on those three or four cars who are racing for the points, and one mistake or bad stage and you can lose a lot of points very quickly. William (Bryon) has a little bit of a gap on us but all it takes is one bad race and he is back there with us. We have a lot of cars that we are trying to keep up with and outrun. I would imagine it’s fun to stay on top of.”


Is there still a sense with your team that this is still a wide-open championship battle?

“I mean it’s really crazy. My finishes have been atrocious lately and we are still right in the hunt, so that is a good thing for me, so hopefully, if we can start cleaning up our finishes, I will be able to capitalize on that. It is crazy – it seems like people just keep having mistakes and bad days that bring them back to where we are. You look at the 8 car, Kyle Busch, he’s right there in the hunt and he was buried in the tire barriers at Chicago at lap three and he made it out of it. All of the teams inside the top-five are doing a really good job of maximizing the day even when they have adverse conditions, and we are seeing a great points race out of it. The 20 group, we just need to start finishing races. We’ve been running really well and finishing really poorly. I think the capability of the team is strong and high. We haven’t been able to maximize that.”