It was just a matter of time before Christopher Bell returned to Joe Gibbs Racing.
The team made an official announcement on Monday.
Following his rookie season at Leavine Family Racing, which announced a pending sale last Tuesday, Bell will replace Erik Jones in the No. 20 Toyota in 2021. On Thursday, JGR confirmed Jones’ dismissal at year’s end.
“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”
Bell, 25, was one of the early proteges in the Toyota driver development program. He refined his skills on dirt under the direction of Keith Kunz Motorsports and won the 2013 USAC Racing Midget championship and three consecutive Chili Bowl National titles (2017, 2018, 2019).
At 20, Bell joined Kyle Busch Motorsports where he won in his third Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series start. After two full seasons in the No. 4 Tundra, Bell won six additional races and the 2017 Truck title. That same year, Bell won the fall Kansas race in just his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series start.
The Norman, Oklahoman moved to JGR full-time in 2018 to compete on the Xfinity tour. Bell set the rookie record for most wins in a season with seven. He backed that mark up with eight wins in 2019. Bell amassed a remarkable 12 pole positions in 74 starts. He advanced to the Championship 4 Round of the Playoffs both seasons finishing fourth and third, respectively, to champion Tyler Reddick.
With a full stable at JGR, Bell joined Leavine Family Racing this season to drive the No. 95 Toyota for 2020. Under the COVID-19 pandemic—and the changes to NASCAR procedures including the lack of testing and practice—Bell’s rookie season has been hit or miss. In 22 races, Bell has one top-five and five top 10s. He’s led four laps and is currently 19th in the Cup point standings.
“We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”
Although crew chief Jason Ratcliff has overseen Bell's programs from the last three seasons, a JGR spokesman told RacinBoys.com they have "no news with regards to crew chiefs as of yet."