Joe Gibbs Racing announced that Christopher Bell will compete full time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next season.
Bell, 22, currently leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points in the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 4 Toyota. The Oklahoma native has made four XFINITY starts this season, netting a pole position at Iowa Speedway and a best finish of fourth in his series debut at Charlotte.
It’s all part of a natural, gradual progression up the racing ladder for Bell, who made his first NASCAR national series start in 2015.
“Whenever I was running late models at Kyle Busch Motorsports, they were kind of trickling me into some truck races, and I think I got seven truck races that year before I went full-time, and it worked out again this year where I’m going to have, I think, eight XFINITY races before I go full‑time next year, so that’s great seat time for me,” Bell said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, site of Saturday’s fred’s 250 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the truck tour.
“I’m going to be able to be with the organization and kind of learn how they operate, and driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, you already have somewhat of a feel for how they do things, and I think it’s a great fit and the perfect stepping-stone.”
Bell brings an extensive dirt-track-racing pedigree to his NASCAR career, including a victory in the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals in his home state earlier this year. He posted the first of his seven career Truck Series wins on the Eldora Speedway dirt in 2015.
Bell has participated in Toyota’s driver development program dating back to 2013, during his days of U.S. Auto Club (USAC) sprint-car competition. His first NASCAR win on pavement came in his 16th career Truck Series start, at Gateway Motorsports Park in 2016.
“I can’t say that enough how thankful I am that they’ve believed in me through the thick and thin,” Bell said of Toyota’s support. “Last year I had a really — not a great season, and then this year has been really great. They believed in me enough to give me another opportunity this year in the Truck Series, and I’m really thankful for that, and I’m thankful that we get to continue our partnership.”
Bell finished third in the Truck Series standings last season. This year, Bell finished as the series’ Regular-Season Champion, and his sizable collection of playoff points make him a favorite to again reach the championship round at Homestead.
“Christopher has proven himself at every level of racing and we are excited to have him run full time in our XFINITY Series program starting in 2018,” said team owner Coach Joe Gibbs. “He has shown great maturity both on and off the track and we think he is ready for this opportunity. We look forward to watching his continued progress in the sport.”
The organization indicated that it would announce more details — including car number, crew chief and sponsorship — at a later date.