Bell takes aims at Xfinity title after 2018 ‘rude awakening’

This may be Christopher Bell’s last, best chance to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and he wants to make the most of it.

If 2019 turns out to be Bell’s final fulltime season in Xfinity – as many believe – then Bell’s goal will be championship-or-bust if he hopes to become the first driver to win titles in all three NASCAR national series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

“That’s been one of my goals ever since I was a kid. I wanted to set records, break records,” Bell said Thursday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. “I love getting track records whenever we qualify. 

“To be able to be the first driver to have three championships would be really, really – that would be a pretty cool record to have.”

Bell, 24, appeared to be on track to win the Xfinity title in his rookie season but wrecked out of back-to-back races late in the playoffs that left him in a must-win situation at Phoenix.

Letting it slip away

He did win, earning a berth in the Championship 4 at Homestead, Fla., the following week but ended up 11th as Tyler Reddick won the race and the championship.

“Last year was a rude awakening. I was in a very similar spot last year,” Bell said. “We snuck through the first round really easy. I won Richmond and locked myself into the second round.

“We ran top-five at the Roval and won at Dover, so we were on top of the world. Then all of a sudden we go to Kansas and crash. OK, we are not that bad. I think we were right on the bubble at Kansas. We go to Texas and we crash, and then the next thing you know you have to win at Phoenix to be able to race for a championship. 

“It happens fast. You get on the other side of it very, very fast.”

The importance of bonus points

Bell would like to eliminate those hiccups this season and looking to get off to another fast start in Friday night’s playoff opener at Richmond.

Having first-hand experience of how the championship outlook can change quickly even for the drivers in the best situations, means Bell wants to leave nothing to chance.

In the spring Richmond race, Bell started third and led 32 laps but finished 16th after getting caught up in an accident on Lap 143 of 250.

“The bonus points that we have right now are really big. It’s going to be really hard to out-point us, but if somebody outside the big three wins in the second round, then all of a sudden that bubble spot becomes a lot more relevant and especially if two people win, then one of us are out,” he said. 

“People underneath us winning races is a really big deal and it really affects us. I think that is a big focus point.”

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