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A dirt racer of enormous renown, Christopher Bell has come into his own at NASCAR’s highest level. In his third full season in the NASCAR Cup Series, Bell qualified for the 2022 Championship 4 and finished third in the final standings.
The driver of the No. 22 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won a career-best three times in 2022, bringing his career victory total to four. The 27-year-old also won four poles in his breakout season.
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Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Christopher Bell was drawn to racing at an early age, Before turning 10, he was already established in micro-sprint competition. In 2013, before he reached age 21, he secured the USAC National Midget Series championship, the first of his significant titles.
A year later, Bell raced Super Late Model Stock Cars for Kyle Busch Motorsports, beginning an association that led to a full-time ride with KBM in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. In his second full season in the Truck Series (2017), Bell won the title, posting a series-best five victories and 15 top fives.
That same year, Bell won the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, becoming the first Oklahoma driver since Andy Hillenburg in 1994 to triumph in the Super Bowl of Midget Racing. Bell would go on to claim Chili Bowl titles in 2018 and 2019 to become only the third driver to win the January event three times or more.
In 2018, Bell graduated to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. In 2018 and 2019, he qualified for Championship 4 each year, finishing fourth and third, respectively, in the final standings.
Bell gained plenty of seasoning during his two full seasons in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, but there was no NASCAR Cup Series ride open at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020. As a consequence, the driver known as the Baby-Faced Assassin for his uncommonly youthful appearance spent his rookie season with Leavine Family Racing, a Gibbs affiliate.
The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the 2020 season after four races, and when competition resumed, NASCAR eliminated practice and qualifying in an effort to limit teams’ and drivers’ potential exposure at the race tracks.
The lack of track time hurt Bell, who struggled throughout the season and finished 20th in the final standings.
A year later, having replaced Erik Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing, Bell won the second race of the season, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the Daytona Road Course. That was Bell’s inaugural win, and it propelled him into the 2021 Playoffs. He finished 12th in the series standings,
After a slow start to the 2022 season, Bell posted his first top five of the year—a third—in the sixth race of the season at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. In the 20th event on the Cup schedule, he scored a dominating victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, beating runner-up Chase Elliott to the finish line by 5.439 seconds.
That win qualified Bell for the Playoffs. He advanced easily from the Round of 16 with three top-five finishes, but in the Round of 12, he came to the elimination race at the Charlotte ROVAL needing a victory to keep his title hopes alive.
Taking advantage of a late caution, Bell delivered, and he duplicated the feat in the Round of 8 elimination race at Martinsville, scoring his third victory of the season. In the Championship 4 for the first time in his career, Bell ran 10th in the season finale at Phoenix to finish third in the final standings.
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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