Christopher Bell rallied from a pit-road penalty to finish second in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America on Sunday afternoon (July 4).
“[I’m] really proud of this No. 20 group,” Bell told NBC Sports. “It’s been a trying last two months, but we feel like we’re getting back on track here.”
The finish was the best for the second-year Cup Series driver since winning at the Daytona International Speedway road course back in February. And it was his first top five since finishing fourth at Richmond Raceway in April.
In the time since then, Bell had only one top-10 result, a ninth at Nashville Superspeedway. In the meantime, he had six finishes outside the top 20 in the past nine races, causing him to freefall from 10th in the points standings to 16th.
“Last week at Pocono [Raceway], we had a car capable of finishing in the top five, and it didn’t happen. Nashville, we were OK. And aside from that, I don’t know, we just haven’t been very fast,” Bell said. “But here recently, the last couple weeks, I’ve been really proud of the progress we’ve made and just proud to drive for everybody here on this No. 20 group at Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Bell qualified for the race in 13th and scored points by finishing seventh in stage 1. But a pit-road penalty for driving through too many pit stalls set the Oklahoma native back.
He spent the rest of the race on the offense, moving up to second in the closing laps. Bell was reeling in race-winner Chase Elliott late, but ran out of laps.
“We kind of buried ourselves there whenever I had that pit road penalty,” Bell said. “But man, that was a lot of fun and our SiriusXM Camry was really good.”
In a race filled with lots of damaged racecars and broken parts, Bell rated his car as, “Not 100%, but pretty clean.”
The expectations were high for Bell as he stepped into the JGR No. 20 for 2021, but the top five on Sunday marked just his third in the 19 races so far. Erik Jones, who he replaced in that car, scored nine top fives last season. So Bell has his work cut out for him if he is to eclipse that number.
But the Road America runner-up could be the first step in that direction.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be running up front every week. … I’m excited for the future,” Bell said. “I know there’s more to come.”