Phoenix – There may not be a clear favorite to win the NASCAR Cup Series, but there is one on the outer limits of many people’s radar who just might be the man to beat.
In the world of ex-champions Joey Logano and Chase Elliott, as well as passionate favorite Ross Chastain after his perilous move in the last race, there is a fourth man who might say, “Hey! Here! I’m in that race too!”
Christopher Bell, 27, with the face of a 14-year-old, races Sunday at Phoenix Raceway in the shadows of Lugano, Elliot and Chastain. But there is one thing you cannot discount.
Bale is the most exciting of the four who have a chance to win the championship.
He converted two must-wins to win the playoffs this year, winning October 9 at Charlotte Roval to advance to the quarter-finals, and then last Sunday in Martinsville to seal a place in the quarterfinals. Finish any race lower in either race and he’ll watch someone else drive for the title.
Instead, Bell is in a prime position to win it all with Joe Gibbs Racing even though most eyeballs seem to be focused on Team Penske’s Logano, Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott and new favorite Chastain with Trackhouse Racing.
Bill is great with other guys who get more attention. In his mind, he is a favourite.
“I think I’m in the best position to win the championship because our cars were very fast in the week and week,” Bale said. “I feel like I have the best team out of the four. I definitely like our chances.”
Bell has one win and five top ten places with Team Gibbs in 10 races in the Cup and Xfinity Series in Phoenix. He finished ninth in both Cup races at the one-mile circuit in 2021 and won the Xfinity race in 2018.
Gibbs’ cars have won seven Cup races in Phoenix, including five since 2017.
“I don’t know if there is another team that has been more successful here than Joe Gibbs Racing,” Bell said. “I think that’s a great feather in my hat. I’ve got the right people behind me.”
Among them is another person who doesn’t make the headlines he probably should, crew chief Adam Stevens. He won two FA Cups with Kyle Busch, in 2015 and 2019, before switching to the Bale car, and has racked up three wins this season with four pole positions, 12 top five positions, and 19 top ten positions.
“Adam, he’s a genius,” Bell said. “He’s definitely why we’re here. I think we have the best team, and that stems from Adam.”
Bell says it may be the reason for Stevens’ relative obscurity.
“Nobody really realizes I drive racing cars for a living, I think most of the time. I don’t think I do anything else to defend myself or something,” Bell said. So any time people seem to unite with me, they’re off the radar.”
Bill is fine with spotlighting elsewhere. He’s a man at the moment, though confident, who says he didn’t think much about what it would be like to win on Sunday.
“I don’t think it is exhausted after I have the chance,” he said. “We just have to go out there and do our jobs. I didn’t think about winning. Just trying to focus on being the best of the four this weekend.”
The trophy title would remove a huge layer of mystery for Bale, although he wouldn’t care if nothing changed – except for the championship ring on his finger.
“Maybe I will be the lesser-known cup champion one day,” he said.