No one in the history of NASCAR has ever won a championship in all three national touring series. One of the biggest threats to that stat came up short on Saturday evening (Nov. 16).
Christopher Bell won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship in 2017 and had dominated the NASCAR Xfinity Series the past two seasons, winning 21% of his starts. The only thing left for Bell to do before moving up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2020 was capture the Xfinity title.
Bell came up short of the elusive Xfinity title for the second year in a row, finishing the Ford EcoBoost 300 in fifth — third among the Championship 4.
The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led at various moments throughout the day, but Bell didn’t have the long-run speed champion and runner-up Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer had. Bell struggled with that last year as well, finishing 11th at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a championship on the line in 2018.
“It was oddly familiar,” Bell said about the struggles. “I don’t know, I don’t get it. For whatever reason, whenever the tires start falling off here, I struggled. I don’t know what we’re missing to get me comfortable where I can go around here. I’m okay for 10, 20 [laps] and then after that, we just fall apart for some reason.”
Bell’s one saving grace was his pit crew. On pit stops on lap 125, Bell’s pit crew got him out ahead of Reddick and into the lead. Bell held the lead for 27 of the next 28 laps, but Reddick and Custer eventually got around him.
“That second-to-last run, I don’t know if I just did a better job blocking or what, but we definitely seemed to maintain a little bit better,” Bell said.
When it came time for the final pit stops, Bell had a chance to capitalize again, but he missed pit road on the first try. He still managed to get around them by short pitting, but they eventually blew back by the No. 20.
“Yeah, it was just a miscommunication,” Bell said about missing pit road. “I don’t know if my spotter didn’t get told what our cue word was, but I got told the cue word to pit, and then all of a sudden, I started pitting, and he said, ‘Not now, not now.’
“But that didn’t matter whenever you get beat by 17 seconds. I’m glad that didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the race.”
Still, Bell got back to the lead for two laps thanks to short-pitting his championship rivals, but they blew back by him right after.
“And when we pitted, you never know how many laps we pitted earlier than the other two guys, but I was pretty happy whenever I drove by them because I think we only had 30-something laps to go at that point,” Bell said. “My car had been okay for that distance. And yeah, there wasn’t really much of a chance once they got up to speed. They just ran me down and drove away.”
Bell leaves his full-time Xfinity career with 16 wins, 41 top fives, 46 top 10s, 2,920 laps led and an average finish of 10.2, but he doesn’t have that championship. Fortunately for Bell, he has the chance to win championships in the future in the Cup Series. Of course, he’ll continue to battle Custer and Reddick in that series as well.
“It’ll be a lot of fun racing Cole and Tyler for rookie of the year next year,” Bell said. “It’ll be interesting to see how each of us adapt to the next level. I guess Cole and Tyler have a little bit of a head start on me with a couple Cup starts, but yeah, it’ll be fun. I’m ready for the next chapter.”