Toyota Racing – Christopher Bell
NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS)
Richmond Raceway – September 21, 2018
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell was made available to the media at Richmond Raceway:
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How will you remember Greg Hodnett and what do the dirt tracks need to do in order to be more preventative?
“I don’t know, that’s a tough question. Starting on a positive note there, Greg (Hodnett) was one of the greats in sprint car racing. He’s been around a long time and I got to race against him for several years all across the country. Probably my fondest memory of him was when we were out running a Winter Heat out in Yuma, Arizona a couple years ago – me and Greg had to do some media stuff together and he was just an awesome guy and obviously a fantastic racer. It’s crazy to think about all the racers that we’ve lost – Greg, Bryan Clausen, Jason Johnson – all three of them are great sprint car racers with a lot of experience. I don’t know, it’s tough. The race tracks, the sport itself is doing a great job of making sure the drivers are as safe as they can be. The Outlaws mandated making the cars a little bit safer. They updated the rules this year so that will take place next year and that’s a really good step in the right direction. Obviously the tracks will continue to learn from their incidents.”
Do you think the tracks should do something about the track openings?
“It’s tough for me to say. I think gates are the safest thing. Just any way to shut off the race track to make a wall continuous all the way around the perimeters. That’s probably the best way to go instead of having openings or water barrels or anything like that.”
What are your expectations for next weekend’s race at Charlotte and do you have enough time to get the cars setup?
“For me, obviously going to a new race track where the teams have never been before – I think that’s the biggest part. We have simulators and Cup footage that we can watch and study and be as prepared as we can be, but the teams rely so much on notes. Every week we go to new race tracks and they already have their setups built from years and years and years past so roughly you have your setup. That will be bit for us going into next week on Thursday just to get in the ballpark. I love the idea of having less practice. If it was up to me, I would just say that you get one set of tires, ideally go out and make a 20 or 30 lap run and then adjust on your car from there and go qualify and race. I’m all for less practice so I’m excited to get there and have never seen the place.”
How do you feel about the Outlaw sanctioning body issuing safety rule changes?
“With the Outlaws mandating more safety rules, that’s the best case scenario. For them to go out there and say, ‘Hey, we’re adding two bars to the structure of the cage,’ which I think it was David Gravel this year that crashed at Volusia so he put on those bars and he didn’t run well with them so he cut them back out. Now the Outlaws have mandated that so that everyone is running them. I applaud them for doing that.”
Who has been your biggest mentor?
“For me, my biggest mentor would be Rick Ferkel. He gave me my first shot in a sprint car when I was 16 years old and I lived with him for a while and he taught me a lot about just the mentality of racing for a living and just being a professional race car driver. He’s my biggest mentor.”
Do you worry about how the recent fatalities in dirt racing could impact your dirt race schedule?
“The best thing that I have going for me right now is Kyle Larson, he’s done an excellent job of promoting sprint car racing and proving that the more he can sprint car race, the better he is. I feel like I’m in that same boat. I don’t know how to answer your question other than it makes me a better race car driver whenever I can race more. That’s the hardest part of NASCAR racing for me is having a 30-race schedule whenever you’re used to a 100-race schedule. You just don’t get to redeem yourself if you make mistakes. It’s great if you’re winning, but if you’re not winning then it’s a long time in between races so I enjoy racing.”
What advice do you have for Jeffrey Earnhardt about trying to race his first Chili Bowl Nationals?
“If he’s serious about it, he just needs to go run laps. The Chili Bowl, you get no laps, you get only one five-lap practice session on Monday now before you start your prelim night. If he is serious about it, I really hope he takes the time to go get laps and I know Justin (Allgaier) has done that over the years.”