CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As he prepares to make his full-time debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next month, long-time dirt track ace Christopher Bell’s extracurricular racing may be slimmed somewhat this season.
At the very least, Bell confirmed Wednesday that he won’t have a set plan of attack for what dirt racing he does do in 2018, having to fit in what races he can around a hefty, 33-race XFINITY schedule in the No. 20 Toyota Camry.
“With the XFINITY schedule being what it is, it’s going to be a lot tougher to run as many races as I did last year,” Bell admitted during the final day of the 36th annual NASCAR Media Tour. “Last year, I got to race a lot … but I still will be able to race some.”
“I don’t have a schedule; I probably won’t be making a dirt schedule this year … I’ll just leave it to off weekends and see what’s racing, what rides I can get and where those races might be.”
Bell is coming off a calendar year (2017 Chili Bowl to 2018 Chili Bowl) in which he won 12 out of 15 midget car races he competed in, as well as two All Stars Circuit of Champions races and a World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series race at Eldora Speedway on the winged sprint car side.
The Norman, Oklahoma native knows full well that another year like that won’t be realistic this time around, specifically because he won’t run as many races on the dirt.
“Last year, I think I ran close to 35 or 40 dirt races around all the Truck stuff, and I definitely won’t be able to do that many this year,” Bell said. “I’d like to hit as many as I can … but I really have no idea what that number will be. Obviously the goal will be to win as many as possible.”
“I’ve already done Chili Bowl, and I’ll do Turkey Night (at Ventura, Calif. in November), so there’s two right there … and I’ll just sprinkle in others where I can throughout the year.”
While he normally has a heavy presence at Volusia Speedway Park during the annual DIRTcar Nationals, which is held in conjunction with NASCAR Speedweeks, Bell said that likely wouldn’t be the case this year.
Instead, his focus will be on his XFINITY duties until after the conclusion of the West Coast swing in mid-March.
“I don’t think I’ll be doing any more dirt racing before Daytona, and once the season starts, we go pretty hard until March … so the middle of March would probably be my next opportunity to do any outside stuff,” said Bell. “I’d love to run Volusia, but I don’t have a ride yet … so if there’s any car owners out there looking for a driver, I’m open,” he added with a grin.
Bell confirmed to Race Chaser Online after the Chili Bowl earlier this month that his likely return to the clay will come during the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League’s annual Turnpike Challenge at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City, Okla., an event that Bell swept in both 2014 and 2015 when it was held at Port City Raceway.
But Bell also said that for any of the dirt track racing he does, it’s all about having the right opportunities and the ability to compete at the front of the field.
“You definitely want to be in good equipment any time you go and race anywhere,” Bell explained. “That’s one thing that driving for Tony Stewart (last year) showed me; I knew no matter what that I was going to have the best race cars, crew chief and motor that I could ask for.”
“If I’m going to go back to dirt at any point, I want to make sure I do it right.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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