By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Early on in the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 at Daytona, Christopher Bell found himself sitting sideways in his pit box with the entire field passing him by.
By the time the checkered flag flew, all of that was in his rearview mirror as he brought home a third-place finish in overtime.
Bell started the day in sixth-place and though he finished the first stage outside the top-10, things took a turn when the field hit pit road. To make matters even worse, Bell would be slapped with a penalty for his crew members being over the wall too soon, sending him to the tail end of the longest line for the ensuing restart.
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“I was pretty much just along for the ride there,” Bell said. “Practice didn’t really go as smooth as we wanted it to – I didn’t feel like we had the strongest race car. Our PDP GameStop Camry was good when it mattered at the end there. We got bottled up getting onto pit road there that first stop and I wound up being just to the outside of the 16 (Ryan Reed) car and I knew where my pit box was, but I couldn’t find my sign in time and whenever I did I tried to yank it down and spun out.”
Though restrictor plate racing has been the bane of Bell’s existence in the Xfinity Series, the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie buckled down and set his sights on getting his Toyota back to the front.
Restarting 16th when the final stage took the green flag, Bell worked his way into the top-10 by the time the race reached 30 laps to go. From there it was just a matter of surviving the remainder of the race for his first restrictor plate top-10.
Bell did just that, avoiding trouble in the two multi-car crashes at the end of the race, moving into third place to score his best NASCAR finish ever at Daytona and leaving with his fourth-place points position intact.
“Our PDP GameStop Camry was pretty good, we were there at the end, which is something I haven’t been able to say at speedway races so I’m pretty proud of that,” Bell added of the finish.
“Really proud of my team and hopefully we can build on this and create some momentum.”