The four NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship contenders met with the media individually on Thursday afternoon.
I know you don’t want to think about not winning the championship, but if you don’t have the extra media stuff, is there a chance to go run elsewhere?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: No.
Is there a car out there?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I’m sure there’s a car available for me. I don’t plan on it, going to Placerville this year.
What is your mentality going into this weekend? Do you feel any more stress than usual?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Not really. It’s going to be a fun race. Homestead is a beautiful racetrack. I love it. It’s so slick. I don’t know, it almost has like a Richmond feel. Richmond is really slick. This place is really slick, and a mile‑and‑a‑half on top of that.
You have speed, slipping and sliding all over the place. One of the most fun races we get to go to. This is a race that obviously everyone has circled for multiple reasons, not just because it’s a championship race, but because it’s a fun racetrack.
Last year we weren’t very fast here, so we’ve focused on how to get better here. I feel like we’re really prepared for this year’s event.
Have you been thinking about it for a whole year?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: A little bit. We hit it really hard right after Homestead last year because we struggled so bad. I remember the week after Homestead, me and Jason sat down for a period of time, thinking about where did we mess up, how did we go wrong, why weren’t we fast.
Last year I feel like we went into the race as one of the favorites, obviously we won a lot of races, felt like we should have had a great shot at it. Whenever the green flag dropped, we weren’t very fast.
Like I said, we’ve been hitting it hard, focusing on this since Homestead last year. Definitely got a great idea of the direction we’re headed.
We have a phenomenal car for this weekend. I’m excited to see what the speed is. Ultimately we saw the 00 two years ago dominate the race. I think we have that capability this year.
You said you’ve been working on it since Daytona?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Since November of last year. This has been a race that we’ve had circled for a long time.
When you say ‘working on it’, what does that mean?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: For Jason, he’s more notes, right? He’s going over the notes, seeing how much nose weight, wedge, what the setup was in the car. For me, I’m studying video. I’ve watched thousands and thousands of minutes of video from Homestead now. Watching my in-car, watching the 9’s in-car, the 00’s in-car, see what is different about the throttle application, brake application, what the hands are doing inside the car.
Pretty happy and excited for this weekend.
Share what you missed on?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I’ll keep that for myself.
How do you know before you go on track that the car is going to be there?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Because of data, man. Because of what we knew last year, what we know this year. It was pretty clear after looking at the videos of what we missed last year. Yeah, so, I’m excited about it, man. I really am.
Can’t wipe that smile off your face. Is this the most confident you’ve ever been going into a race?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: It’s tough to say. It’s very enjoyable, that’s for sure. Ultimately it’s one race. We could have a flat tire. We could have a mistake on pit road. Something could take us out of it and we could very easily lose the championship again.
Getting to this point is kind of the goal, because you never know how this race is going to turn out, so getting to this race is the goal. You want to make the final four at Homestead, roll the dice.
We’re going to go out there Saturday, roll the dice, see how it turns out.
Were you down here for Harrison’s test?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I actually was. I got to come down here and be part of that test. It was cool to look at the data, whenever they made changes, of how much that affected him. I’ve really enjoyed even like going to the simulator and watching the other drivers. I really enjoyed this year learning more about it.
There’s a rumor you were able to get in the car.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I think I did like a shakedown run.
How many laps?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I think it was six or eight, something like that.
With the confidence you have, do you feel you’re the favorite this weekend?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I mean, it’s hard to say I’m the favorite if you look at the stat book. I definitely like where we’re at. I don’t really feel like anybody’s a favorite except I think the 00 is very confident because they’ve led a bunch of laps here. I would say he has to be the favorite.
Do you think the opportunity to run on that tire, though, since nobody has run on that tire, will give you an advantage?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: It was so few laps, I don’t think we have a big advantage. But Harrison testing on that tire was a really big advantage for the company.
David Gravel is likely to run truck races next year. How do you think he’ll transition to stockcars?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I think he’s going to be very aggressive. The Sprint car nature is all about aggression. From my experience, getting into the NASCAR racing, running long distance races is a huge adjustment.
Especially for him, it doesn’t appear he’s going to have any sort of asphalt experience before he goes truck racing. I expect the longer distance races to be his struggle point.
Watching videos, you have somebody that cuts it up for you? Other sports teams have video managers that do that. Is that what you’re doing?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, our team actually has a website where we’re able to go and look at all the onboards, all the race footage. Our team has access to that.
When you’re looking at the onboards of other drivers, can you give us some insight as to what you’re looking at?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Just listening mainly. Obviously seeing what lines they run. At Homestead, it’s a pretty clear‑cut line of where you’re going to be. Listening to their throttle application, watching their hands whenever they go to the drivers onboard. That’s the biggest thing.
Knowing what you learned from last year, what you say you have figured out, are you relaxed? You look like you’re able to have more fun than a year ago.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: Yeah, I guess the biggest thing is I’m happy with where we’re at. I feel like my team has done a great job of preparing a wonderful racecar for this weekend. I think I’m just happy with where we’re at.
Is it bittersweet knowing how much you have accomplished as a team to know this is your last race with them?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: That’s a good question. For me, this week has been really sad. If you would have seen me on Tuesday or Wednesday, I was almost in a depressed state because this is it, it’s coming to an end.
I don’t know, I’m not a big ‑‑ I struggle with change. Whenever I left KBM, it was difficult because I was around them for so long. Even at JGR, around this group for two and a half years now. I’ve been able to race with all three of the different groups. Next year it’s all going to change.
It’s been a little bit of an emotional week for me because it’s my last week at this job before I start a new job. It’s definitely difficult.
What stands out to you from this JGR group?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: The relationships. I know I said it whenever I left at KBM, the same thing. The relationships you build are really big. It’s just the group of people that we’ve worked with. Whenever you have success with a group of people, it builds a bond of trust, friendship.
Yeah, I’m going to miss these guys.
Any Xfinity plans for next year?
CHRISTOPHER BELL: I kind of felt it out. Obviously I would love to get to race Xfinity next year. They told me right now there’s no way.
Next year a rookie battle in Cup with you, Tyler and Cole.
CHRISTOPHER BELL: It’s really cool to see the three of us excel at the Xfinity level, now have our opportunity in Cup. I look forward to racing the same two competitors on Sundays now. It will be with a bunch of other great racecar drivers mixed in.
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