The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Richmond Raceway on April 3 for the Toyota Owners 400. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have yet to win, but Christopher Bell can snap this streak while continuing a unique trend.
The first six races of the 2022 season have featured six different winners, all under the age of 30. Austin Cindric (23), Kyle Larson (29), Alex Bowman (28), Chase Briscoe (27), William Byron (24), and Ross Chastain (29) have all reached Victory Lane while making the average age of Gen 7 winners only 26.7. Bell, 27, has an opportunity to continue this trend at a track where he has consistently contended in the Cup Series.
Bell only has three starts at Richmond Raceway since moving up to the Cup Series. He made his debut in 2020 with Leavine Family Racing and turned in a 15th-place finish. He then returned for two starts with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021 and posted back-to-back top-five finishes. The September 11 race, in particular, kept Bell well above the cutline and helped him secure his spot in the second round of the playoffs.
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As an Xfinity Series driver, Bell has even more success at Richmond Raceway. He only has five starts at the short track, but he has reached Victory Lane three times while adding another top-10 finish. The lone outlier is a 16th-place finish in the first Richmond race in 2019.
Joe Gibbs Racing Hasn’t Contended for Wins
Three different Cup Series organizations have reached Victory Lane in 2022. Hendrick Motorsports has three wins while Trackhouse Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, and Team Penske each have one. Joe Gibbs Racing, for comparison, has struggled to contend.
The organization with 194 victories has dealt with a variety of issues. Kyle Busch spun multiple times at COTA and missed out on a top-five finish. He also posted a DNF at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin has three DNFs and no top-10 finishes after contending for the regular-season championship in 2021.
Bell started his year with back-to-back DNFs, but he recovered with a top-10 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a spin and a top-five finish at Circuit of the Americas while battling steering issues. He also finished the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in second place, but a move below the red and white line resulted in a penalty that dropped him to 23rd overall.
Truex has been the most consistent member of JGR with only one DNF, but he only has three top-10 finishes in 2022. He finished eighth at both Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway before ending the trip to COTA in seventh place. Truex also posted back-to-back 13th-place finishes at Daytona International Speedway and Auto Club Speedway.
JGR has struggled at times in 2022, but Bell has optimism about the trip to Richmond Raceway. He has strong performances at the track, and he drives for an organization that has several wins at the Virginia short track.
“I hate to keep harping on it, but it’s just that I have really good race cars to drive there,” Bell told NASCAR Media. “Richmond is one of JGR’s best tracks as a company. It’s one that we definitely look forward to coming to year in and year out. Between the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series, it’s a place that’s been really good to me.”
Bell Anticipates More Surprises in 2022
The rise in young drivers and the number of new winners has caught many viewers by surprise. Many did not expect to see Cindric, Chastain, or Briscoe reach Victory Lane before Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, or Ryan Blaney. Joey Logano won the Busch Light Clash, but it was only an exhibition event that did not count in the championship standings.
Bell expects similar outcomes at Richmond and other tracks on the schedule. He believes that the competition has “been amazing” as veterans and young drivers alike have fought to break through and reach the playoffs, and he has expressed the opinion that this trend will not end in the near future.
“I think the competition standpoint has been the best it’s been in years with the Next Gen car,” Bell said in a video for Richmond Raceway. “We’ve seen so many different winners, a new winner every single race, and different faces running up front. None of the — I would call favorites — have been to Victory Lane yet.”