(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Joe Gibbs Racing Picks Up Christopher Bell’s Option for 2020

One piece of NASCAR’s 2019 Silly Season puzzle has fallen into place with Christopher Bell. Bell announced Friday (June 28) his contract has been extended at Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2020 season. The team officially picked up a one-year option to keep Bell under the Toyota banner going forward.

The big question now becomes what series Bell will run in come 2020. The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular is second in the standings, posting a series-high four wins in 14 starts. The strong performance has led to speculation he’ll be promoted to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

But for now, the 24-year-old is breathing easy simply knowing he’ll remain under the Toyota umbrella.

“I don’t know what I’m going to be racing, but I will be somewhere,” Christopher Bell explained during a Friday press conference at Chicagoland Speedway. “Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing is where I want to be at. I’m thankful that I get to go for another year.”

Bell made it clear he has no knowledge of whether he’ll receive a 2020 promotion. At the moment, JGR has Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones in its four-car Cup lineup. All but Jones are signed to long-term deals and have clinched a spot in the 2019 MENCS playoffs.

It’s led to speculation Jones could be on the way out at JGR, although both driver and team insist they’re working on a contract extension. But as the situation unfolds, rumors flying Bell claims everyone is taking it all in stride.

“There’s really not anything awkward because you look at the results and all four of their drivers are doing exactly what they need to do,” he explained. “I don’t feel like any of their drivers feel like they’re on the hot seat at all. Obviously, me looking in, there’s not really a hole for me yet. I don’t know where I’m going to be.”

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has groomed Bell throughout his career. He won the 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship, piling up seven career victories in the series with Kyle Busch Motorsports. A three-time Chili Bowl winner, the accomplished dirt racer saw his NASCAR career take off with KBM after a 2015 Eldora Dirt Derby win.

In 2018, Bell was promoted to the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he drives the No. 20 JGR Toyota. The Oklahoma native’s racked up a dozen wins in the series and reached the Championship 4 last season, losing the title to Tyler Reddick.

“I love the Xfinity Series and I love the cars,” he explained. “I’ve said it multiple times, the rules package that we have right now is so much fun to drive. I love where I’m at and next year, I have no idea where I’m going to be at. But if I’m in Xfinity again, I have a lot of fun racing there and I’m OK with that.”

RACE WEEKEND CENTRAL: CHICAGOLAND

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Mark joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is an Eagle Scout & a proud University of Dayton alum. He also writes about NASCAR for Beyond the Flag.

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3 comments

  1. Avatar

    Absolutely insane that NASCAR has managed to bastardize the Cup cars’ package to the point that the world’s best stock car drivers prefer racing in the Xfinity series. Bell says as much here, and Ross Chastain said as much this week when asked about driving the Cup cars vs. the Xfinity cars: “The Xfinity cars, easy. They’re real race cars.” Just a shame that these guys spend their whole lives perfecting the craft of driving, only to reach the highest level and find that the cars are so easy to drive that they barely even have to lift, taking their skill set mostly out of the equation and replacing it with aerodynamic circumstance. Bell and Chastain and the like still aren’t going to be turning down Cup opportunities because that’s where the money is. But it’s a shame that it isn’t where the highest challenge is either.

  2. Avatar

    I have read that it was Bell’s decision to “sign” an extension, and this article seems to indicate it was JGRs decision to extend the original contract. Which actually happened?