DOVER, Del. — Joe Gibbs Racing brought four rocketships to Dover Motor Speedway, though all four experienced some sort of issue during the DuraMAX Drydene 400 on Monday. The best finisher of the quartet was Christopher Bell.
Prior to the 20-hour red flag due to Mother Nature, Bell was one of seven drivers not to pit and gain valuable track position. From there, he wheeled the No. 20 Toyota to a third-place finish in the opening stage, behind JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott.
It wasn’t long after the opening stage where Bell experienced his woe. Restarting Stage 2 from the front row, the No. 20 car quickly dropped back. Quickly, he realized something was amiss with one of the tires.
Over the radio, Bell stated he thought one of his tires was loose. Initially, he thought it was one of the left side tires; however, crew chief Adam Stevens chose to change all four tires, diagnosing that the right rear tire was loose.
Bell went two laps down in the process, but got one back when taking the wave around on lap 156 when Kyle Larson blew a right rear tire. By the midway point of the 400-lap event, he was back on the lead lap and making a run towards the front.
At the end of the second stage, Bell was listed in 21st position. During a couple of long green flag runs, the No. 20 car drove its way inside the top five, and passed Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap to finish fourth.
“It was eventful,” Bell said of his race. “I knew this DeWalt Camry was super fast, even back to yesterday on the first run of the race. We didn’t qualify very good, but we were able to pick our way forward. I felt like we were going to have something to contend for the win and then had to keep unburying ourselves all day.”
The fact Bell was able to make up two laps and soar to just his second top-five finish of the season is something to hang his hat on. In a way, it’s a team morale builder, proving it can overcome adversity during the race and still manage a respectable finish.
“I’m really proud of this group,” he said. “This Camry was so, so fast. They did an excellent job and have been doing an excellent job all year. Just proud to drive this No. 20 car.”
Dating back to Circuit of The Americas, Bell has five top-10 finishes in the last seven races, and has up to 10th in the championship standings.