When the NASCAR drivers head to Sonoma on Sunday, June 6, they will try to find any possible advantage in order to reach Victory Lane. For Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, this means that he will bring back a winning paint scheme. He will head to the road course in the same color scheme that reached Victory Lane at the Daytona Road Course.
JGR revealed the design on Wednesday, June 3, confirming that Bell will “throw it back” to earlier in the season. The simple scheme features red and black colors, as well as a massive Rheem logo on the hood and smaller versions on the rear fenders. The trunk area features the text: “Western Rheem Water Heating Dealers.”
Bell highlighted the scheme during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on Feb. 21, 2021. He only led five laps during the road course race while Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott led 44. However, Bell took the lead at the best possible time, locking up 47 points, a spot in the playoffs, and five playoff points in the process. Now he will try to win his second race of the season while running the special scheme.
Bell Has No Experience at the California Road Course
While he has every intention of taking the checkered flag for the second time this season, Bell will have to make adjustments on the fly. He has never raced at Sonoma during his Cup career considering that he began racing in Cup full-time in 2020.
Bell has made several starts at other road courses during his time in the Xfinity Series, Cup Series, and Camping World Truck Series. He has a win at Daytona, a 24th-place finish at the Charlotte Roval, a top-five at Mid-Ohio, and a top-five at Watkins Glen.
His most recent road course race took place at the rain-covered Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Bell crashed into the back of Ryan Blaney’s Ford Mustang after losing visibility, bringing his day to an end. This incident was one of several on the new track, all of which contributed to NASCAR bringing the race to an early end and declaring Elliott the winner.
Bell Will Start in the Front Half of the Pack at Sonoma
When Bell climbs into the No. 20 JGR Toyota Camry for the road course race, he will line up in the front half of the pack. He will line up next to three-time Sonoma winner Martin Truex Jr. on the 10th row. The two men will not have an early advantage like the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, so they will have to make some early moves on the track to contend for a top finish.
NASCAR determined the starting order through the special formula based on previous performances. There are four factors that determine where each driver starts: the finishing position from the previous race, the fastest lap from the previous race, the team owner’s finishing position from the previous race, and the team owner’s points ranking.
Prior to the 2021 season, NASCAR informed teams that only eight races would feature practice and qualifying sessions. This decision stemmed from COVID-19 guidelines around the country, as well as the upcoming move to the Next Gen car. The teams were able to save some money as they prepared for another season with limited fan attendance.
Despite being a new addition to the 2021 schedule, Sonoma was not on the list of races with practice sessions. Several drivers have experience at the California road course; Bell is just not among this group. Now he will try to find success at a new track while showcasing a winning paint scheme from the past.