By Cole Cusumano
Pocono Raceway has been branded by Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing for the better part of two years. While the blue ovals capped off a dominant day by Stewart-Haas Racing with Kevin Harvick’s breaking a 38-race winless streak at the tricky triangle, Toyota teams made their presence known. Four of the seven cars fielded in day one of the doubleheader secured top-10 finishes, the most impressive run coming from Christopher Bell.
For the third consecutive week, Bell failed to start above 35th via the random draw, but this was still not enough to prevent the 25-year-old from locking down a career-best finish of fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“We seemed to be really fast in turn one, that’s kind of where I could make all my moves at,” Bell said. “Just have to work on turn three a little bit and see how tomorrow goes. It took me a little bit to get up to speed with obviously not having practice in my first race in a Cup car here, but by the end I was really happy with the car.”
Notorious for being one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit, further analysis makes Bell’s top-five finish all the more impressive.
This was the highest finish by a rookie driver at Pocono since 2017, when Erik Jones placed third. Bell has now matched Sunoco Rookie of the Year competitor, Tyler Reddick’s career-best mark attained at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Not only that, the Oklahoma-native has the most top-10s and is tied for most top-fives among the 2020 up-and-coming class.
He may not have the flash of the Reddick, but Bell is certainly compiling a quietly admirable campaign. The driver of the No. 95 has more top-10s than Matt DiBenedetto had through 14 races last season for Leavine Family Racing. Not to mention, he’s shown hints of speed all year, but taking the green flag sub-25th in half the events in 2020 is bound to hamper results.
Bell could be someone to watch as we near the halfway point of the regular season, although he currently sits 24th in the standings, 70 points behind Rookie of the Year leader, Reddick, for the final spot in the Playoffs. The Leavine Family racing driver will start 17th in the final doubleheader event by virtue of the top-20 invert from the Pocono Organics 325.