By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Toyota haven’t had many positives to start off the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series campaign. Although the Busch Brothers (Kurt and Kyle) and Bubba Wallace have scored top-fives, the rest of the drivers from the camp have struggled.
Whether it’s luck, shortcomings, pure pace or all of the above, Toyota remain winless after six races.
For Christopher Bell, just finishing third in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas was rewarding. More so when he drove without power steering for most of the afternoon in Austin.
Bell’s No. 20 DeWalt Toyota Camry was forced to make a pit stop to diagnose the issue, putting him a lap down.
Ultimately, Bell got his lap back after the fourth caution came out for Erik Jones’ Chevrolet lost power on the backstretch.
From there, it was a grind to keep the machine going and avoid getting collected in other people’s mess. It came close of happening when Austin Cindric’s spinning Ford Mustang nearly clobbered Bell, but the latter managed to move right just in time.
As the race wind down and the madness ran high, Bell muscled through the mayhem without ramifications. Then on the last-lap, AJ Allmendinger getting bumped out of the way and into the gravel trap. Allmendinger finished 33rd while Bell, far away from the race-winning battle, rounded out the top-three.
In terms of having a shot of scoring his second career Cup win, Bell felt his shot at victory was out of reach because of how far he was behind eventual race winner Ross Chastain.
“I knew if I was like third or second, maybe, but being fourth, I didn’t think there was any chance,” Bell commented.
Entering COTA, Bell was 29th in points with a 10th at Las Vegas being the only bright spot thus far. The race before in Atlanta, Bell was penalized for going below the double line while battling for the win, preventing him from getting a top-five earlier. That all changed as the former road course winner moved up to 23rd heading into Richmond Raceway next Sunday (3:30 pm ET on FOX).
Although driving without power steering wasn’t ideal, Bell reflected on his afternoon that was salvaged by his Joe Gibbs Racing crew.
“It was a hard-fought day that’s for sure. Losing power steering wasn’t ideal,” said Bell. “I picked up an issue early on in the race and I knew something wasn’t right and eventually lost power steering a couple laps later. That wasn’t good, but this 20 group did amazing getting us back out there.
“The DeWalt Camry was really strong on restarts. I was always able to pick off a couple spots and that’s ultimately how we got our finish.”