Christopher Bell is back in the Championship 4 for the second year in a row and there's a belief he has a better chance this year to win it all.
Bell's Path to the Championship 4
Bell locked himself into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with a win at the Bristol Dirt race on Easter. Outside of that lone win, Bell had a very up and down regular season. Bell flew under the radar to a fourth place finish in the regular season standings. He was so under the radar that many analysts had Bell being eliminated after the Round of 16 or Round of 12.
Bell and the No. 20 team dominated qualifying in the Round of 16. He became the first driver to win the pole in all three races in a single playoff round in NASCAR Cup Series history. Bell struggled at Darlington, finishing 23rd, but came back with an 8th place finish at Kansas Speedway and a 3rd place finish at Bristol. This was enough to move Bell to the Round of 12.
The Round of 12 was another round where Bell and the No. 20 flew under the radar. Bell finished fourth at Texas Motor Speedway, 14th at Talladega Superspeedway, and 15th at the Charlotte Roval. Nothing outstanding for sure, but enough to move to the Round of 8.
The Round of 8 was a different story though. Bell finished second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a late race charge came up just short of beating Kyle Larson. After the race, Bell thought he lost his opportunity to move into the Championship 4, but that was not the case. At Homestead-Miami Speedway, Bell came on strong late and passed William Byron to win and lock himself into the Championship 4.
Why Bell Will Win the Championship
The same thing goes for Bell as it does with Ryan Blaney. Bell and the No. 20 team have found that wave of momentum they need to finish the season off on top. In the Round of 8 Bell could have won two races and had a solid top 10 finish at Martinsville when there was nothing on the line for them.
Bell enters as the underdog with the sportsbooks listing him at +350 odds to win it all.
This is Bell's second time in the Championship 4. He is the only driver who made it both last year and this year. In the 2022 championship race, Bell was running behind the eventual champion, Joey Logano, with 45 lap to go. A pit stop error on a late caution sent him deep into the field and he didn't have enough laps to recover. So, Bell and the No. 20 team know how to get in the position at the end of the race to win the championship.
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This will be crew chief Adam Stevens' seventh appearance in the Championship 4. He made if five consecutive years with Kyle Busch from 2015-2019 and is now in the second year in a row with Bell. Stevens has plenty of experience and knows what it takes to win in this one-race format.
Bell has the talent to win a NASCAR Cup Series championship. Kyle Larson is mentioned as the driver with the rawest talent in the Cup Series, but Larson has been on record saying Bell is more talented than him.
Why Bell Will Not Win the Championship
If there is one major downfall for Bell and the No. 20 team, it is pit road, where the team has suffered woes throughout the playoffs.
When the playoffs started, Joe Gibbs Racing decided to swap the No. 20 and No. 54 pit crews. The No. 54 crew was ranked third in the regular season, and they won the pit crew challenge during All-star weekend at North Wilkesboro. Even with the change, the crew made mistakes throughout the playoffs that have cost Bell spots. Right now, the pit crew is the major concern going into the championship race on Sunday because the driver who leads after the final pit stop is most likely going to be in the best position to win the championship.
In the Next Gen car, Bell has had an average finish of 14th at Phoenix. Compared to the other three drivers, that is the lowest. And Bell has never finished in the top 5 at Phoenix, which is a cause for concern. The narrative will have to change if Bell wants to be the one celebrating a championship on Sunday.
Christopher Bell might be the underdog heading into the championship race, but that may be where he and the team want to be. They have flown under the radar and performed well enough to make it this far. With one more performance like they had in the first two races of the Round of 8, Bell could be the newest NASCAR Cup Series champion.
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