Transcripts: William Byron & Christopher Bell – Champ 4 Post-Qualifying Press Conference – Phoenix Raceway

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the pole award winner for tomorrow’s race, William Byron. We’re also joined by Christopher Bell, as well. If you have a question for William or Christopher…

Q. William, do you feel like you guys have the race pace to match that? Obviously looking at the practice speeds yesterday, it seemed like the 20 and 12 had long run speed. Do you feel like you guys have that in the 24 car?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I don’t know. I think we were right there in the mix. We definitely needed to connect our corner a little bit better and just kind of get our overall balance a little bit closer. Felt like we leaned heavily on some of the Chevy teammates, so thanks to Kyle Busch and RCR for some of the changes they made, also the 1 car.

Feel like we have something to race with.

Q. Knowing the 24 car’s legacy, the championship dry spell, what are your thoughts?

WILLIAM BYRON: I don’t really think about that. I think, I mean, maybe when I got in the car it felt that way and thought about that, but not at this point. It’s just all about our team that we’ve built.

Yeah, it’s great to have Jeff here and his support, and we share a bond, but I’m not thinking about that when I’m driving.

Q. Christopher, knowing that you and Larson are facing off in a high-stakes battle, how does it feel to be representing the dirt community?

CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I think it’s really cool. I hope that our story, which is oddly similar, I hope that that spreads hope to young racers out there. I think that that should extend outside of the dirt community, even for late models, Bandoleros, whatever it is. If you win races, you’re going to get opportunities. That’s the motto I want to share and I want young racers out there to believe.

Or, in William’s case, iRacers.

WILLIAM BYRON: It’s true. Don’t forget about the dirt iRacing community (laughter).

Q. Christopher, obviously didn’t qualify the way you wanted. Are you optimistic because of yesterday or worried because of today?

CHRISTOPHER BELL: I’m probably more optimistic because I’ve never won a race from the pole, so…

Obviously the pit stall is a great advantage, and we gave it to William. Congratulations on that (smiling). Aside from that, I think the starting position is less of a factor just because it’s 312 laps.

Yesterday in practice, my car showed great pace. That leaves me feeling very optimistic. Certainly the whole weekend has gone a lot better than it did 12 months ago.

Q. William, I don’t know if you know, the restart zone was in one area yesterday, they moved it back. You’re leading the field on the initial restart. Did that matter that they moved it back to where it was? Do you practice that?

WILLIAM BYRON: I think it would have definitely been an adjustment given where it was, I mean, just watching the Truck race, kind of seeing how that played out.

I think moving it back to the traditional spot is great. Kudos to them for doing that, recognizing it. I think yeah, I won’t do anything different on the initial start. Just try to have a good start, I guess, get through the gears.

Q. We’ve been through press conferences after press conferences to get to this point. Is this like a relief that now you get to get in the car and go race?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, for sure (smiling). I mean, it’s nice to be done with all the hoopla. It’s going to be great to get in the car.

I mean, it’s been nice. I love it out here. We’ve done a lot of fun things. My friends are here. I’m just excited to kind of do normal stuff for the next 24 hours.

Q. Christopher, finally you get to focus on racing now?

CHRISTOPHER BELL: Not yet. We still have a couple appearances tomorrow, all four of us together. We’re not to that point yet, and we won’t be till they do the national anthem. Then it will finally be time to get in your car and race.

One thing I am really focused on is enjoying the moment. This is a really, really cool deal. What a lot of people would give to be in the position that William and I are both in.

Just trying to enjoy the moment.

Q. In the past races, it’s come down to a final pit stop and a short green-flag run. How do you feel about confidence-wise your speed in the short run versus the long run? What’s more important?

WILLIAM BYRON: Try to be good the whole run.

Honestly, for us it’s not really that focused until maybe we see in the race what our weaknesses are. In practice, nobody ran 60 laps on tires to know what that falloff is going to be like. I felt like we were all kind of close.

Q. Christopher?

CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. The short run, long run stuff, everybody is so tight. They post the practice results of the 10-lap averages. From the best car to the fourth of us was, what, a 10th of a second. That’s going to come out to who’s out front.

Typically I think short run cars are dictated on where you restart. If you restart on the front row, it looks like you have a great short run car. If you restart on the fifth row, it won’t look like you have a great short run car.

A lot will play out in the race. Like William said, you learn more about your car whenever you get into the first stage and know where you stack up against the competition.

Q. William, your first time in the Championship 4. Have you gotten any advice from Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, the guys that have done it?

WILLIAM BYRON: No, not really. I mean, I haven’t really asked. I feel like it’s just trying to experience it for myself. That’s the best way you can learn.

I feel like for me, I kind of go back to Xfinity days, what that felt like, because it was the same format, albeit a lot different competition. Yeah, I just kind of go back to my own experience because I feel like that’s all that really matters.

Q. You talked about being out front, how important it is to be in clean air. When you’re back or in the middle of the pack on a restart, how conscious are you going to be about passing a bunch of cars and be aggressive or…

CHRISTOPHER BELL: I’ll take this one since he’s out front (smiling).

Yeah, thankfully I feel like once you get into this championship race, the field is pretty respectful of who’s racing for the championship. So that’s really good.

Last year I was in a similar position. I think I qualified in the teens. It’s a long race. This is not a place where you can restart in the teens and then in a couple laps be in the top five. It just doesn’t happen.

You have to be aggressive on restarts and you have to trust your other competitors that they’re going to race you with respect whenever you get into those four- and five-wide positions where contact can happen.

Q. I’m struck by seeing the two of you guys sitting up there. You’re each respectively potentially the future of these two iconic teams, could go on to become a great rivalry. I’d like to hear you talk about each other as a driver, how the future feels like it’s here.

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, Christopher and I have known each other since Truck. We spent a lot of time racing each other. I feel like that has continued into the Cup Series. We got in a little bit different time, a little bit different path. We’ve always raced really hard and with respect.

It’s good to race people all the way up through the ranks because I feel like you really respect those kind of people more so than just someone I guess who came in and you don’t know anything about, so, yeah.

CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I mean, William and I have a unique relationship because we were teammates whenever we started out our NASCAR career, I guess, so to speak. We were buds back in the day. It was just me and him. He’s probably honestly the closest teammate that I’ve had in my career in 2016, just bouncing ideas off of, talking about how we’re really working together to better both of us.

We have a great history and we kind of went our separate ways after that year at KBM. It certainly was something that I look back at and think it was pretty cool to have both of us in the Final 4 racing for our first championship, and the camaraderie that we have now.

Q. William, you talked about being in this format before in the Xfinity Series. There’s a lot of talk about first-timers, pressure. Do you feel any pressure? Is it any different or a normal weekend in a lot of respects?

WILLIAM BYRON: Yeah, I mean, you’re going to be nervous because that’s normal. I think that having that experience was something that really stuck with me to get in the Cup Series.

Yeah, no, I don’t feel any different this week. I feel like it’s a lot of pressure to get to the Final 4. I feel like all of us would say that it’s a big accomplishment to get here. You’d like to have this every year. You’d like to this the same meaning behind the championship weekend.

I’m excited. I feel like we have a great opportunity.

THE MODERATOR: Christopher and William, thank you for the time.