RACE: Pocono Organics 325
TRACK: Pocono Raceway
LAPS: 130 laps
Bell Earns Career Best Cup Finish
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-25),
- Christopher Bell qualified 36th for the first of two races for NASCAR’s double header weekend at Pocono Raceway. The starting lineup was based on a random draw for the first race of the weekend.
- A light sprinkle began to fall while the drivers rolled off pit road to begin pace laps around the 2.5-mile “tricky triangle.” NASCAR ran a few additional pace laps to keep the track dry and then the small shower dissipated.
- Bell picked up 10 positions just two laps into the opening run and held that position until the competition caution on lap 12. The No. 95 fired off tight, so Bell pitted under the competition caution for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment
- Different pit strategies came into play towards the end of stage one. Bell was one of a handful to make a green flag pit stop just before the stage break for two tires and fuel.
- Bell finished stage one 35th but cycled up to 16th to start stage two while others took their turn coming down pit road.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 31-77)
- Bell started 16th and finished 11th in stage two.
- Bell lost positions to start stage two with a tight handling No. 95 Rheem Toyota Camry.
- As the different pit strategies played out, Bell got some clean air and track position and by lap 54 cracked the top 10.
- By lap 63, Bell was running fifth and said the balance was pretty good, but he could use a little help on exit.
- Under caution on lap 66 Bell pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
- Bell restarted 17th and raced his way up to 11th to finish stage two at Pocono, reporting back at the break that his car was tight in dirty air.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 82-130)
- Bell started stage three ninth and crossed the finish line fourth, earning a NASCAR Cup Series career high finish for the Rookie.
- The field took the green for the final stage with 48 laps remaining in the race. Bell restarted ninth and came down pit road under green on lap 90 for what would be his final pit stop of the race. The No. 95 received right-side tires and fuel.
- Bell returned to the track 15th and with a fast Toyota Camry raced his way forward through the field as the final stage went caution free.
- Bell cracked the top five by lap 114 and quickly took over the fourth position before settling in for the remaining laps.
- When the checkered flag waved Bell was fourth, earning his first top-five finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career. Bell will race the same car tomorrow at Pocono to finish up the doubleheader weekend.
What does it mean to score a top-five finish this afternoon?
“We seemed to be really fast in turn one, that’s kind of where I could make all my moves at. Just have to work on turn three a little bit and see how tomorrow goes.”
Were you paying attention to the strategy or did you just have to trust in your crew chief?
“Whenever I started working with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) two years ago in the Xfinity Series, well even before that, I started following him and I knew he was really aggressive on strategy to get his driver up front. Seems like the majority of the race tracks that we’ve been to the last couple weeks have just been, put four tires on and go, but Pocono is definitely a place where you can mix up strategy, pit early, pit before the stages and so forth. Obviously, Jason did a great job and got us up front and we had the car speed to stay up there.”
From 36th to a career-best fourth, talk about the run today at Pocono Raceway.
“Yeah, it was a great day. I was really happy with our Rheem Camry. It took me a little bit to get up to speed with obviously not having practice in my first race in a Cup car here, but by the end I was really happy with the car. Everyone did a great job here on this 95 group; we executed and ended up upfront.”
With as good as car as you had today, how excited are you to get back on track tomorrow?
“I’m looking forward to see if we can build on it. I think all of our cars are really good. We are close to winning, so hopefully we can continue to get better and see if we can move up a little further tomorrow.”
Up Next: The NASCAR Cup Series finishes up the double header at Pocono Raceway with the Pocono 350 on Sunday, June 28th. The race will be broadcast at 4:00 p.m. ET on FS1.