KANSAS CITY, Kan.—Christopher Bell pulled off the trifecta of poles at Kansas Speedway after setting the quick time for Sunday’s AdventHealth 400.
Bell scored his first Kansas pole in the Camping World Truck Series in 2017. He picked up an Xfinity Series pole in the Sunflower State two years later. On Saturday, with a lap of 179.575mph, Bell topped the speed chart at the 1.5-mile track once again.
For the 27-year-old Norman, Oklahoman, the pole marked the third of 2022 and the third of his Cup career.
“I think it’s a great track for me,” Bell said of Kansas Speedway. “I got my first Xfinity win here. Cup cars haven’t been great to me here, but I’ve ran really well.
“The top is going to be the place to be. I think everybody knows that. The thing is, as this track ages, it seems like the top gets more and more dominant and it gets a little tough to pass. So keeping your track position, pit stops and qualifying effort is going to be really important.”
Not surprisingly, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Larson—who also honed their skills on dirt—qualified second and third on a track that rewards drivers who can ride the rim.
“Any car you drive here, you can’t really drive it flat across (turns) three and four, especially that high,” said Reddick, who posted a lap of 30.192-seconds — 0.121-seconds behind Bell. “I’m just so used to it getting a little tight landing into three. I just lifted a little bit too much and as soon as I got there, I kind of hated myself for lifting as much as I did. I could have run a little faster lap through three and four. But all-in-all, our No. 8 Bet MGM Chevrolet has been great.”
Austin Cindric was the top Ford followed by Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.
“It was pretty decent and fun to kind of follow the track around and see where grip goes,” Cindric said. “It’s kind of what makes this place unique, especially this part of the weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll definitely be wrapping the fence for sure. If we were doing it in qualifying, we’ll be doing it in the race. Obviously, I’m glad to have some speed in our Menards/Monster Ford Mustang. I want the pole, but it’s a good starting spot.”
Bell's toughest competition will likely come from Reddick and Larson. Bell has two top-10 results at Kansas—but both finishes came in the Playoffs. He has added confidence in K.C., particularly after participating in the tire test in April. Still, he’s grateful that his view of the competition will be in his rearview mirror.
“It’s going to be tough to pass," Bell said. "Once everyone gets to the top, it’s going to be tough to pass. Fortunately, I start in front of them, so hopefully, that gives me a little bit of an advantage. You are going to have to really execute all of the details. You need to get off pit road first, have the best restarts.
"The track is going to race a little bit different tomorrow, because when the tires are good and the track gets cleaned up after yellows – we are going to be at the bottom, so the guys that can time that the best and maximize the time of the bottom and get up to the top at the right time is going to be the guy that succeeds. Later on in tires, when we all migrate to the top, it’s going to be tough to past but you are going to have to make sure you execute before that.”
While Bell is currently in his third season in Cup, having a second year under his belt in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has benefitted the young driver. In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, traditional exercises such as practice and qualifying were at a premium.
“It’s been good,” Bell said. “We’ve definitely been a lot more consistent this year and I think a lot of that is just Adam Stevens (crew chief) figuring out what I need in the race car to be successful. Last year, we didn’t have qualifying and very few – I guess we had a few races with practice and qualifying, but now, when you have practice every week and qualifying every week, there is just many more data points, so that Adam can hone in on what I need to be successful.
“We would hit it every now and then last year and be competitive, but we would have moments when we were off, and it seems like we are hitting on all cylinders, and he is able to consistently give me what I need in the car.”