The new short track package makes its official debut at Phoenix Raceway on March 12. There are still some significant questions about whether it will improve the on-track action, but one Toyota Racing driver is already a fan.
Christopher Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, provided his thoughts on the new Cup Series aero package after an extended practice session at Phoenix Raceway. He had some past experience with the new package after taking part in the preseason test session, and he expressed optimism about the effect on the Cup Series races.
“I thought it felt similar,” Bell said, transcript courtesy of Toyota Racing. “I don’t know if I’m biased towards it because I really like it, but I made passes in practice that I know that I absolutely wouldn’t have with the old package. I don’t know. I’m happy. I hope the other drivers feel the same way.”
Bell continued and provided further insight. He explained that the air appeared to have less of an effect on cars when running in traffic. Bell said that he was able to run the same lines as other drivers before rolling underneath them and making the pass.
Another Toyota Driver Was Also Able To Make Passes
Bell was not the only driver that noticed a difference with the new short track package. Teammate Martin Truex Jr. had some similar comments after practice. Though he will still take a wait-and-see approach before issuing a judgment.
As Truex explained, he felt like he was slipping and sliding more during the 50-minute practice session. He said that the car was better in traffic, but he also noted that he wasn’t trying to chase down one of the best cars in the field.
“With the other package, I felt like when you got behind another car and you lose the nose super bad, and you can’t get close to them,” Truex said. “Just felt overall like I was more balanced, but I was never really close to a guy that was competitive in speed as the leaders. It was more just passing slower cars.”
While Truex took some positives from the practice session on March 10, he shied away from saying that the new short track package will fix the on-track product. He specifically said that he won’t know for certain until the Cup Series drivers take on the United Rentals Work United 500.
Bell Will Now Test the New Package ‘For Real’
Practice and qualifying are both complete; now Bell and the rest of the Cup Series drivers will prepare for the first race with the new short track package.
The driver of the No. 20 will start from a strong position after reaching the second round of qualifying on March 11. He posted the fifth-fastest lap at 27.782 seconds, which was good enough for a spot on the third row next to Ross Chastain.
There will be a healthy mix of manufacturers in the rows ahead of Bell, which will provide him with ample opportunity to test out the short track package for real. William Byron (Chevrolet) and Brad Keselowski (Ford) will make up the second row while Kyle Larson (Chevrolet) and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) will lead the field to the green flag.
Truex will also be in the top half of the field after a qualifying run that he did not like. He posted the 13th-fastest lap at 27.667 seconds, which put him on the seventh row next to rookie teammate Ty Gibbs.