NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, Dry, Wet; Christopher Bell by a magic mile at New Hampshire

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is the current standard in Loudon

Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

“I mean, what race do we want to talk about? Do we want to talk about Loudon dry or Loudon wet?”
Christopher Bell, June 23, 2024

We could extend that to Loudon Xfinity or Loudon Cup too, for that matter.  It doesn’t matter because Bell has won seven NASCAR national touring races at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the past seven years.

Bell was good on Saturday and he was good on Sunday. He was good on slick tires and he was good on wet tires. He was good in the afternoon and in the evening. He was that good everywhere, Sam I Am, whoever that is under the context of motorsports.

He led just short of half the laps on a day where circumstances kept changing the dynamics and there was one constant — the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Motorsports Toyota out front.

On one hand, crew chief Adam Stevens believes that the organization has always been good in Loudon and that each successful driver and crew chief ‘snowballs’ their knowledge to their successors. With that said, Bell certainly contributes.

“To Christopher’s side, I would love to hear his response to this question,” Stevens said. “This track has so much character. It really tasks the driver with being willing and able to move around and find that little bit of grip as the line moves and the rubber goes down and certainly in the wet.

“As it dries, knowing how much work you’re asking out of your tires and how to remedy that situation in short order, and just that dirt experience and his mindset of always looking forward and always being willing to be the first guy to make a new move seems like it paid off today.”

Despite leading early in dry conditions, they tapered off in the middle stages of the race, and Bell kind of believes they were bailed out by racing on a damp track. The first restart saw him drive to the outside lane and pass four cars.

It was a telling sign.

“Definitely I think that we had some room to improve on the dry stuff,” Bell said. “Like, I’m not sure that I … well, I definitely didn’t have the dominant car. Then whenever the wet came, it was just like — I mean, we might as well have been at somewhere completely different.”

Bell was able to flex muscles he doesn’t get to use much anymore.

“What we’ve lost in the Next Gen car of being able to slide the car around and run the car really loose, yeah, I can’t describe it better than that, but we get that back on the rain tires,” Bell said. “Whenever the track is damp, you’re able to slide the car around more and drive it hanging out more, drive it on the right rear more. It’s a lot of fun doing that for sure.”

Like a dirt race?

“Similar,” he said. “More similar than what we do with the Next Gen car on dry conditions, yes.”

So now, just like that, Bell is now tied for the lead in the all-important playoff point standings. He’s sixth in the standings and it’s clear he is going to be a threat to once again reach the championship race, something he has done in the first two years of the NextGen era.

“Well, we’re certainly on our way,” Bell said. “What sucks is looking back at the races that have slipped away so far in this year. You look at COTA. You look at Richmond. I mean, those are the two that really come to mind. It’s pretty easy to star stacking the wins up, right?

“So it’s been a fun ride, and I feel like we’re close to hitting our stride. I’m excited about what’s to come. That’s for sure.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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