By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
After over a month of speculation, Leavine Family Racing finally confirmed Tuesday that NASCAR Xfinity Series star Christopher Bell will move up to the the sport’s premiere series in 2020.
The Norman, Oklahoma native will replace Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 95 Toyota Camry and he’ll have familiar names joining him. Calling the shots will be his Xfinity Series crew chief Jason Ratcliff as Mike Wheeler will become the team’s Competition Director.
Bell’s long-time partner of Rheem, who will also move up with the versatile driver as it’ll be one of two primary sponsorships. The other being Procore, who’s been sponsoring the No. 95 team since 2017.
Bell, an early odd’s on favorite to win Sunoco NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, said it’s a dream come true joining the sport’s top level and having Rheem following his next step makes it even special.
“Since I was young, I wanted to make a career out of racing,” Bell said. “To take this next step and race in the NASCAR Cup Series with the support of LFR, JGR and Toyota is just a dream come true. It also means a lot to me to have Rheem make the move to Cup racing with me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without their support and I’m also excited to have the opportunity to represent Procore now.
“Having been under the JGR banner these past seasons in the Xfinity Series and with TRD for as long as I can remember, having their continued support as I transition to LFR is extremely comforting and will be a tremendous benefit to me. I can’t wait to close out this season in the Xfinity Series with a strong run, and I’m looking forward to the challenge that awaits in 2020.”
LFR also confirmed their technical alliance between Bell’s Xfinity Series team, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Toyota Racing Development, will be enhanced than ever before.
David Wilson, President of TRD, is confident what Bell can bring to the table as he’s been pleased with his contributions that includes 22 national touring wins and the 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.
“TRD and Toyota have worked with Bell since his early dirt track career and we’ve been proud to see him work his way to NASCAR’s highest level,” Wilson said. “Christopher is a special talent and we’re happy to have him winning races and championships in a Toyota. We look forward to seeing his continued growth and success at Leavine Family Racing in 2020. We’re also pleased with how the relationship between JGR and LFR has progressed during their first season working together. We’re confident this enhanced alliance for 2020 will continue to make them a threat for race wins week in and week out.”
Owner Bob Leavine, who’s been entering Cup cars since 2011, said the signing of Bell symbolizes his vision of being competitive is near its full potential.
“I’ve said from the start, I want this team to be competitive,” Leavine said. “Christopher is one of the most talented drivers we’ve seen come up through NASCAR’s ranks and together, with JGR and Toyota’s support, I’m confident our team will continue to grow, just as it has this past year. We’re certainly happy to continue to progress our relationship with both JGR and TRD as the technical partnership takes the next step forward.”
In three seasons in the Xfinity Series, Bell has amounted 15 victories, 10 poles and 39 top-fives in 68 starts. After scoring last Friday’s victory at Richmond Raceway, which punched his ticket into the Round of 8, he has seven wins in 2019 as he’ll hope to hoist the series title at season’s end.
Leavine’s team has competed in 212 Cup races with 10 different drivers. This season has marked their best all across the statistical and performance board as DiBenedetto has scored three top-fives and six top-10s after 28 races.